Human Side of Energy Consumption

Reducing energy consumption is everywhere, from people trying to reduce their utility bills and save some money to companies producing more energy efficient products. The energy equation is pretty simple, use a product less and you use less energy. One part of the energy equation that was not looked at was the human side and how human behavior is hard to change. Researchers at Berkeley Labs have been looking at hoe peoples behaviors can reduce energy consumption and how hard it might be to change their behaviors. The researches have estimated that changing people behaviors at home and transportation wise can reduce the US energy consumption by up to 20%.  Telling people to change their behavior is easier said than done. People usually are set in a routine they are used to and it is hard to start something new. If you are used to always trying your car to work, it can be hard and inconvenient to start using public transportation, especially if you work far from home. Another one is unplugging unnecessary electronics that are always plugged into the out let like phone charges, laptop charges, and even televisions.

One way companies have tried to get people to change their behaviors and reduce energy is by showing those bar graphs of energy consumptions you use throughout the year. That way you can see how much energy you use each month and it is regular once a month reminder to change something. Those bar graphs have worked fairly poorly; you only see them once a month. When you see it at first you say you will change you ways to reduce the amount you pay for your utilities, but a week later you are back in your habits of leaving lights on and charges plugged in.

To get people to change their habits and be more energy conscious, their needs to be constant motivations and reminders. The researchers compared non-energy behaviors such as wearing seat belts in a car or smoking. There was a lot of marketing done to reduce deaths from smoking and wearing seat belts that can save lives in car accidents. At first people were reluctant and said “that’s mot for me” or ”that will never happen to me”, but as the years went on and commercials got more graphic more and more people wore seat belts and dropped smoking. These trends followed an “S” curve, which meant that few people started doing it first, and then it rapidly curved up, and eventually flattened out.  The only down side is that it takes years and years for a habit to be broken and for people to pick up a better one.  Hopefully over the years more and more people will become energy conscious, either by paying attention to their utility bills or by seeing more commercials.


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