Can People Change?

By Carolyn Raider, Utilities and Conservation Intern

A year ago today I was teaching some of the brightest students I’ve worked with photography in the Galapagos Islands. My female co-leader Alex was an incredible instructor, not to mention one of the most environmentally-conscious individuals I’ve met to date. By the end of our trip, she had influenced every one of our students to always reuse their water bottles, refuse straws in restaurants, and to care about their carbon footprint. Since I met her I’ve been fascinated as to how she influences people to change their behavior, to care.

My goal of the summer and into the fall semester is to inspire people in the same way she did, but on the larger scale of a university campus. Being a primary orchestrator in the Energy Challenge and promoting general information about energy consumption here at IU, I’ve taken this goal to heart. Shahzeen Attari’s Human Behavior and Energy Consumption class (take it if at all possible) this past spring gave me fodder to promote the change I’ve been pursuing. I’ve since been revisiting articles of expert authors in the field and brainstorming how they can apply to my projects.

To give you a sample of the revamping I speak of, I’ve been interested in giving the Building Utility Reports a makeover to get them more appealing and useful to the

This Sample was taken from the March, 2012 Utility Report for the Chemistry Building at Indiana University Bloomington

audience that receives them. Each building on campus has (or will have this coming fall) a Building Captain, someone who receives the information about their building’s energy and water consumption. In theory, this information is passed along to building members ideally for their energy awareness and later reduction. Below you can see the current format for the first section compared with my new changes. Specifically, I’m trying to mimic a successful study by Allcott (2011) who found a decrease in consumption by sending households regular reports comparing them to their neighbors and their efficient neighbors.

A sample of the new design for the utility building reports designed to promote changes in behavior based on research by Allcott (2011).

Most recently I’m trying to influence behavioral change through film. Stay tuned for more information to come about my documentary project regarding the Energy Challenge.

Sources:

Allcott, H. (2011). Social norms and energy conservation. Journal of Public Economics.

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