Lighting is a simple way to save energy in your home, but I’m discovering how challenging it can be to complete this simple action. There’s a lot of reasons why it can be difficult. What do you think?
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This is a great article from Grist summarizes an initiative called Tidy Streets, a feedback exercise that communicated to an entire street (and the world) their energy use over a period of time. While there was initial change (the novelty effect?) the end findings are less than sustained behavior change:
”If you give people feedback on energy use, it does have the effect of reducing energy usage in the short-term,” Bird says. “What is trickier is, how do you get sustained sustainable behavior? Anybody who tells you they know how to do that, maybe hasn’t done it.”
It’s trickier than we think. What makes YOU change your habits or pick up a new practice?
There’s no silver bullet, but maybe silver buckshot. Our changed actions are a product of our perceptions, our peers, our resource (time and money and abilities), and our environment. Bird has found a great way to bring awareness, as he credits himself, but I agree with him that awareness is different than sustained behavior change. Awareness is part of it, but how do you build a culture?
I also appreciate the article’s coverage of the boomarang effect, though a misnomer, it’s really a messaging issue.
A large part of Community-Based Social Marketing involves activating and increasing visibility around social norms. Social norming is nothing malicious or scary. Rather, it’s something that affects us each and everyday. Granted, we don’t like to admit the extent to which the behavior of others molds our own, but to understand human behavior, we cannot ignore the power of social norms.
A great example of social norming is recycling and curbside pick-up. As recycling was becoming more common practice, the presence of the distinguishable recycling bins helped build a norm. As you went outside on recycling day, the row of bins by your neighbors sends you cues: “This block recycles. You live on this block. You should probably recycle.” “Where is your bin? Don’t forget to set it out!”
Social norms tell us what is acceptable, and it allows us to know if we’re sitting well within the bounds of social acceptance. That being said, social norming is different for different groups. As Social Norms in Large and Small Networks describes, the size of group can have a real impact.
On Friday, I had a wonderful conversation with Kathy Kuntz from Cool Choices in Madison, WI, in which I learned about the success they have found with an energy efficiency game in a construction corporation.
Kathy and I connected a year ago after both attending the Fostering and Sustainable Behavior Workshop in Milwaukee, WI. Since then, we have both been working on applying concepts of behavior change around energy. Below are a few reflections on our conversation, some helpful findings, and valuable thoughts!
This last Thursday, I drove out to River Falls, Wisconsin to meet Chris Blasius (who I’ve mentioned before in an earlier post). Chris is the Administrative and Communications Coordinator at River Falls Municipal Utility (RFMU) who has worked to incorporate community-based social marketing principles into their programming.
I was excited to meet her for at least two reasons: Continue reading