- Conventional knowledge on energy efficiency tells utilities that consumers will respond to incentives aimed at their wallets. But now, new research out of Los Angeles shows that at least some highly-educated consumers may be more motivated by pleas for sustainability, the LA Times reports.
- New research from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) shows repeated messages focused on environmental benefits led residents living near the university to cut their energy use an average of 8%.
- Conversely, messages focused on financial savings had almost no impact on power usage, possibly because the savings were relatively low. Response to environmental messages more than doubled when subjects had children in the house, rising to 19%.
A multidisciplinary study conducted at UCLA and published by the PNAS journal found eliminating pollution is the more powerful motivator when it comes to urging power conservation.
The power trials and study were completed in 2011 and 2012 by researchers who devised and installed smart-metering systems for 118 apartments at the campus’s University Village, which provides housing for graduate students and their families.
According to a statement from UCLA, those who regularly heard how much money they could save made virtually no changes while repeated messages focused on environmental benefits caused people to cut their energy use an average of 8%. The study also found that the environmental message was especially effective in changing the behavior of people with children living in the home — they reduced their electricity use 19%.
The project, dubbed "Engage," was aimed at understanding conservation motivations and how to encourage them, said Magali Delmas, the study’s principal investigator and an environmental economist at the UCLA Anderson School of Management.
“We’re finding that you have to bundle the public good with the private good,” said Delmas, who also is a member of UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. “Our message about health and the environment reminds people that environmentalism is also about them and their kids.”
The study split participants into two groups, and after a six-month trial period all the participants received weekly emails for four months comparing their energy use to their neighbors and discussing environmental impacts.