Saving Energy: Selling Consumers on Energy Efficiency

From The GOOD Guide to Saving Energy

Every three months, GOOD releases our quarterly magazine, which examines a given theme through our unique lens. Recent editions have covered topics like the impending global water crisis, the future of transportation, and the amazing rebuilding of New Orleans. This quarter's issue is about energy, and we'll be rolling out a variety of stories all month. You can subscribe to GOOD here.


Andrea Learned, a co-author of the book Don’t Think Pink, is an expert on gender-based consumer behavior, with a focus on sustainability influence and communication. The path to reduced energy consumption is, in her view, most likely to be a combination of top-down policies and consumer-driven behavioral change. “Government and other top-down mechanisms may still need to clamp down,” she says. “But some consumers will have at least started to find ways to feel smart and counter the full economic hit. Others will want to follow.” We asked her whether the current messaging around energy use is working—or not.

GOOD: Unfortunately, it feels like most people in the United States fail to fully grasp the importance of reducing energy consumption. Why isn’t the message getting across?

Andrea Learned: Utilities may be looking for the one silver bullet in getting that message across and not realize they have to dial into a customized mix of marketing messages instead. Energy efficiency “sells” because of varying equations of cost savings added to environmental benefits, wrapped in the essence of homeowner as good citizen. The “social proof” theory of persuasion (see Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion) is one I’m really watching in terms of promoting energy-efficient behavior change.

If homeowners are unfamiliar with energy-efficiency measures, but hear that people they know are doing it (and that they are saving money and feeling good about it), there’s real power in that. Interestingly, I’ve heard anecdotes from friends who market nonprofit energy-efficiency programs indicating that women seem more likely to want to share their experience with others (even in larger public forums) once they “get” and engage with efficiency measures in their own homes.

g: What messages around sustainability seem to resonate? And do they resonate differently for men and for women?

AL: Being sustainability-minded as a consumer means the person is thinking a bit more holistically, which has been considered a more “feminine” trait. But holistic thinking is not gendered. I believe that most people can learn to see the interconnections of people, planet, and cost bottom lines—and perhaps be guided a bit more by personal values as to which of those gets more weight given any set of buying circumstances. I think what businesses pitching sustainability can get wrong is assuming they need to get emotional in order to engage women. Even if the women they are trying to reach are moms, it’s not necessarily about the nurturing, family-centeredness, or health aspects of the offering. It can be more about how to make smart, practical household-management decisions.

via / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by HAL9001 on Unsplash

The U.K. is trying to reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, but aviation may become the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.K. by that same year. A new study commissioned by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and conducted at the Imperial College London says that in order for the U.K. to reach its target, aviation can only see a 25% increase, and they've got a very specific recommendation on how to fix it: Curb frequent flyer programs.

Currently, air travel accounts for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, however that number is projected to increase for several reasons. There's a growing demand for air travel, yet it's harder to decarbonize aviation. Electric cars are becoming more common. Electric planes, not so much. If things keep on going the way they are, flights in the U.K. should increase by 50%.

Nearly every airline in the world has a frequent flyer program. The programs offer perks, including free flights, if customers get a certain amount of points. According to the study, 70% of all flights from the U.K. are taken by 15% of the population, with many people taking additional (and arguably unnecessary) flights to "maintain their privileged traveler status."

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via ICE / Flickr

The Connors family, two coupes from the United Kingdom, one with a three-month old baby and the other with twin two-year-olds, were on vacation in Canada when the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) turned their holiday into a 12-plus day-long nightmare.

On October 3, the family was driving near the U.S.-Canada border in British Columbia when an animal veered into the road, forcing them to make an unexpected detour.

The family accidentally crossed into the United States where they were detained by ICE officials in what would become "the scariest experience of our lives," according to a complaint filed with the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security.

Keep Reading Show less
via Andi-Graf / Pixabay

The old saying goes something like, "Possessions don't make you happy." A more dire version is, "What you own, ends up owning you."

Are these old adages true or just the empty words of ancient party-poopers challenging you not to buy an iPhone 11? According to a new study of 968 young adults by the University of Arizona, being materialistic only brings us misery.

The study examined how engaging in pro-environmental behaviors affects the well-being of millenials. The study found two ways in which they modify their behaviors to help the environment: they either reduce what they consume or purchase green items.

Keep Reading Show less