How Behavior Modification Can Close the Energy-Reduction Gap

Policies and programs aimed at gaining efficiencies and trimming waste form the backbone of any good action plan. Local leaders have a vast array of tools at their disposal for addressing energy consumption, water usage, materials management, and transportation modes, which – when combined – are the core elements of a good climate and sustainability strategy.

But perhaps the most powerful tool in the hands of a local leader is a megaphone. Studies show that effective communications that induce positive behavior modification can have a tremendous impact on the efficacy of local climate and energy plans.

Climate action plans typically include dozens of measures that are calculated to reduce carbon pollution by measurable amounts over time. It is not unusual for the cumulative reductions of these measures – when added up and compared with the plan’s short, medium, and long-term reduction targets – to fall short of the plan’s goals. When this occurs, some climate action plans make up the difference by planning to purchase renewable energy credits to close the gap. However, a more effective method is readily available to local leaders, one that would heighten the exposure of local climate action while improving the participation of the community in local plans.

It is simply a fact that the greenest homes and offices, the most comprehensive waste reduction programs, and the most innovative multi-modal transportation systems cannot maximize efficiencies if people don’t use them, or use them properly. Part of the design of efficient systems is the assumption that they will be used efficiently, which is not always guaranteed.

The good news is that there is growing evidence that education and behavior modification, at home and at work, can vastly improve the performance of specific reduction measures and plans. One estimate is that behavior modification programs could reduce U.S. electricity consumption by 23%, simply by achieving greater energy efficiency.

Here’s more good news – effective communications, public education, and behavior modification are low-tech, readily available, cost-effective, and non-partisan solutions that local leaders can use today to begin to close the reduction gap.

By incorporating well-designed, thorough, and integrated communications campaigns aimed at improving business and homeowner energy efficiency, waste reduction, and sustainable transportation options, local leaders can highlight their good work, build on their successes, and include their constituents in the progress being made within their community.

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