How to encourage frugality: make it a contest

Paul Raven @ 06-02-2009

sad face and happy faceThe New York Times reports on an intriguing – and apparently effective – method of encouraging consumers to curb their energy habits. A Sacramento utility company printed comparisons of energy use on their bills, and rated the consumers by comparison to their neighbourhood’s averages and best figures, labelling their success or failure with a happy or sad face respectively.

When the Sacramento utility conducted its first assessment of the program after six months, it found that customers who received the personalized report reduced energy use by 2 percent more than those who got standard statements…

Some clients complained and the utility stopped deploying the frowning faces, but the idea has apparently been taken up by other companies elsewhere. It’s interesting to note that this method is apparently more effective in encouraging efficient energy habits than emphasising the financial benefits or environmental impacts.

But of course, it’s playing on the urge to conformity, and there will always be those who react against such angles of attack. And while the end in this case is benign, it’s a strong reminder that anyone with a psychology (or marketing) degree has a lot more power to manipulate you than you might suspect. [story via WorldChanging; image by Emmaline]

US Congress makes positive step towards sustainability

Tomas Martin @ 05-12-2007

The Middelgrunden Wind Turbine Cooperative in Copenhagen, DenmarkThe Bali talks about climate change are progressing reasonably well, with Australia the 37th country to agree to cut emissions. However, the elephant in the room is of course the US and Canada administrations, who have resisted negotiations. Although some US officials don’t want to join the protocol, others are starting to do something about it. This week Congress is discussing a revolutionary new Energy bill that really starts to look at a sustainable future.

It would repeal $21 Billion in oil subsidies to spend on alternative energies, increase minimum mpg for cars, include incentives for efficiency and new technology as well as pledging renewable electricity production to be 15% by 2020. This bill will inevitably be vetoed by President Bush, or filibustered by the Republican minority. All the same, the US Congress deserves recognition and support for thinking constructively about increasing efficiency and promoting solutions to this problem.

UPDATE: Congress has passed the bill 232-181. The bill moves to the Senate for further discussion. President Bush has pledged to veto it.

[image by Morten Mitchell Larod]

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