I founded Nest. Here is how startups can help solve climate change

Creating situations where the right thing to do is also the simple thing to do is the best method to generate long-term change. The approaching COP26 climate summit offers a once-in-a-lifetime chance to encourage young talent to invent and implement the broadest range of solutions feasible to achieve this goal. When faced with a split-second decision or a force of habit, the average customer will always opt for the more convenient option, even if it is the “wrong thing to do.” Technology, when combined with a thorough understanding of the user experience, has the potential to meet customers where they are – to provide solutions that not only satisfy the basic minimum of convenience in solving an issue but also do it in a way that benefits more people.

Too frequently, I see businesses, both tech and non-tech, lose sight of this notion. Take, for example, recycling, which has long been institutionalized. Everyone understands the importance of recycling in decreasing trash and, as a result, mitigating climate change. We just cannot continue to generate waste at the current rate. Recycling is a method of reducing the amount of waste in the world. Recycling is based on the idea of repurposing old items in new ways. When presented with a split-second decision between the blue and black bins, it is much easier for the average consumer to toss an item into the black bin rather than take the necessary steps to determine the item’s specific recyclability.

On the other hand, we knew at Nest that when thermostats were left set at the same temperature all day, average families wasted a significant amount of energy. We also realized that the last thing busy individuals (and everyone is busy) need is to remember to adjust their thermostat based on weather patterns, time of day, or energy usage spikes.

It is one thing to tell someone to turn off his or her heat because it is better for the environment. It is one thing to have their thermostat automatically switch off for them. We realized we had a device that would generate permanent change when we incorporated automation, energy usage data, app controls, and a design that make temperature regulation feel cutting edge. The Nest Learning Thermostat saved 10-12 percent on heating and 15 percent on cooling per family on average (more stats here). Sure, at Nest, we made energy conservation in the home cool. That is not all, though. We taught our customers so that they could see the financial benefits for themselves as well as the environment. Nest made doing the right thing easier and more convenient for the typical customer.