Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bridging the Apathy Gap

Recent findings by environmental messaging studies are showing that simply using the "it saves money" appeal to get people to buy green isn't enough to motivate lasting change.  Here's some new food for thought on the subject, via GreenBiz:

In our forthcoming Energy Pulse study, we’ve discovered another reason why screaming “save money” doesn’t work, and we’re calling it The Apathy Gap.

Here’s how it works:

When we asked consumers how much their bill would have to go up in order to force them to undertake energy efficient renovations, the average answer matched last year, exactly -- $129.00. This would be a 69 percent increase over average reported winter heating bills ($185.58) and a 76 percent increase over average reported summer cooling bills ($169.20).

In other words, consumers are willing to waste more than $1,500 a year, or more than $4 a day to do nothing. That’s The Apathy Gap -- the price people are willing to pay to do nothing. For that same amount of money, the average homeowner could install additional insulation, or purchase one or two new Energy Star appliances and replace all incandescent light bulbs in his/her home with CFLs.

What does the piece advise for motivating people to actually make changes?

We think it’s about making consumers aware of the waste. They didn’t come right out and tell us they were willing to waste $4 a day -- that’s just how the math works out. We think most consumers would likely feel pretty financially irresponsible/stupid if informed of the numbers above -- after all, $1,500 is nothing to sneeze at, even if you make $100,000 a year. And when we asked, “What’s the No. 1 reason to participate in energy conservation activities or buy an energy efficient product or service” the No. 4 answer (which was a new one we tested this year) was “to be responsible and not waste resources.” That answer beat out “protecting our nation’s economy and reducing our dependence on foreign oil” and to get more control over personal energy consumption and costs,” which seem like pretty compelling reasons.

Given that our Mammas all told us “waste not want not,” we think a little shame around wasting money (particularly in this economy) could go a long way towards bridging The Apathy Gap.

Now let's have some fun thinking about how this finding and recommendation translates into educational campaign strategies and tactics!  I can already think of some pretty funny photo and video contest ideas...

Read the GreenBiz piece>>

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