Seven games to help save the planet

Can fun and games help save the planet? That was the question of the evening at an event in London this week.

Employee engagement around sustainability is one of the key areas 2degrees member Paula Owen looks at in her work, and her recent research has focused specifically on gamification.

To mark both the launch of her new ebook ‘How Gamification Can Help Your Business Engage in Sustainability’ and Climate Week, I was invited along to an event at London’s Science Museum for an evening of fun and games and to decide for myself whether gamification really can be a good way of engaging people to live more sustainably.

Throughout the evening, we were encouraged to wander around three floors and have a go at as many environmental games as we could, while discussing the potential of gamification with other attendees and swapping winners’ vouchers for drinks at the bar.

Here are seven of the games that I enjoyed playing during the event:

Eco action trumps

1 Eco action trumps

This was a spin on the popular Top Trumps game. Each card described a different free or low cost environmentally-friendly action that everyone can do (such as taking the train instead of driving or washing clothes at a lower temperature.)

Every card contained information related to the action on it, such as the amount of carbon and cost savings that could be achieved by doing it. The participants of the game then compared a certain value to see whose card 'trumped' the others, and who was therefore the winner of that round.

The eco driving simulator aimed to help people understand how to drive in a more environmentally-friendly way.

2. Eco driving simulator

Each participant was invited to take two turns on a driving simulator, with a very limited amount of virtual fuel to drive on.

After the first attempt, a rep from Global Action Plan explained how the driving could be improved to make it more efficient (such as by braking more gently and moving into a higher gear more quickly.)

The aim of the game was to try to make it further on the second attempt with the same amount of fuel than on the first go. (Sadly on my second attempt I collided with a lorry.)


3. RUFopoly

This game was all about making the participants debate real life issues that could be encountered in the rural urban fringe. We were asked to imagine we lived in the fictional county of ‘Rufshire’ and were presented with various scenarios that could impact the local environment.

Should we allow a BMX park to be built in the city’s green belt? How far away should a new building development be kept from the local nature reserve? It definitely got us thinking!

4. Eco snakes and ladders

A personal favourite of mine, this twist on the much-loved traditional snakes and ladders game used a life size board and a giant inflatable dice. Landing on squares containing good eco actions, like installing loft insulation, took you up the ladder, while landing on a square scorning you for a wasteful habit like leaving a tap running sent you plunging back down towards the start.

Eco snakes and ladders
Play your eco cards right

5. Play your eco cards right

Remember Bruce Forsyth’s ‘Play Your Cards Right’ TV show?

This eco-version of the game was very similar, but saw participants answering environmental questions and then guessing whether an environmentally-themed action on their card would save more or less carbon than the previous card.

So, for example, will recycling 10 green bottles save more carbon than cycling to work?

The 'Because You're Worth It' rake, made from old hairbrushes and combs, was one of the ideas from my table in the 'Play rethink' game!

6. Play rethink

This game encouraged people to think about ways everyday objects and services could be made more socially and environmentally friendly.

After taking a card at random, we were invited to get creative and draw and scribble down as many ideas as possible.

A person at my table chose a card with a kettle on it. One of their suggestions was that kettles should be designed with more obvious markings on them showing how much water would be needed for one or two standard cups of tea, to avoid people overfilling them.

In 'Food Footprints' we considered the environmental impact of producing, processing, packing and transporting common items.

7. Food footprints

In this game from Carbon Conversations, participants considered the relative environmental impact of the production, processing, packaging and transport for a number of common food products – from ‘An apple from the garden’ to ‘Californian strawberries’ and ‘A British beef ready meal’.

At the end of the game we were shown how accurate our answers had been.


So, can fun and games really help save the planet? I think they can! The evening was very enjoyable and definitely got me thinking, even if much of the information in the games themselves wasn’t new to me. And surely anything that gets people thinking more about the environment can only be a good thing?

If you'd like to find out more about the games above to use in your own employee engagement programmes, don't hesitate to get in touch.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts – have you got any other examples of games that can effectively engage people on sustainability or, on the other hand, do you think that gamification is too gimmicky and won’t make a lasting difference?