Don’t ‘Educate’; Make Energy Savings Visible

December 24, 2012

The Wasting Water is Weird campaign raises awareness of our wasteful behavior and inspires behavior change.

Are you interested in educating your potential green tech customers on why they should be green or energy efficient?

Don’t, says green marketer Suzanne Shelton of the Shelton Group. Also don’t try to scare the market into buying. That’s why environmental messages haven’t worked. Shelton gave a presentation on this in “Turning Home Buyers into Green Home Buyers” at last month’s Greenbuild Expo.

For instance, Shelton says, about two-third of the population consider themselves responsible for water conservation but don’t act on it. “We know we should take shorter showers, but we know that shorter showers are NOT awesome,” she says.

You can’t educate people to get them to change their behavior, Shelton says. You have to apply the principals of behavioral science instead.

The Shelton Group helped design a water conservation promotion called Wasting Water is Weird, which includes a series of humorous spots in which a creepy counter-conscience appears as people are wasting water and makes them aware of … well … the strangeness of it. See the 30-second clips for yourself at

Some of the weird wasting in the videos are things many of us do. Shelton says about 29 percent of people who saw the videos say it changed their behavior. That may not seem like much, but to change the behavior of almost a third of a sample is pretty good.

Shelton says that in order to move people from their automatic (wasteful) behavior you need to:

  • Make it visible.
  • Make the automatic behavior uncomfortable.
  • Give specific, simple actions.

“What people care about is the health and comfort of their families and reducing their energy bills,” she says.

Educate by Raising Awareness

Ca-ching! App from's emPower system

Not educating your clients, though, should not be confused with not raising awareness.

The Wasting Water is Weird campaign’s brilliance is in raising awareness of wasteful behavior many of us share but never think about—and doing so in an entertaining way. We can laugh at the spots and feel a personal tie to them.

In effect, they are educating people by making them aware of their wasteful behaviors. We at GreenTech Advocates still believe that educating people about energy efficiency by raising awareness is key. You don’t have to do it in dry, humorless ways, however.

Be humorous or add a human element to it. Tell a story. Make it visible by showing them energy-saving products, or how a home of building’s energy can be controlled to save money on an iPad or smartphone.

Homeowners, business owners and building managers need to be aware not only of the need to save energy, but how they can do it. Remember, many people want to be energy efficient. They just don’t know how. It’s up to you to show them how.

You may also like:

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