Several years ago, as a way to reduce their energy costs, my parents decided to participate in a local competition that challenged participants to reduce their energy consumption. The local contest lasted for three months and encouraged participants to track their energy consumption through a tool located on the local electric company’s website. The first three households to show the most significant reduction in energy consumption were awarded a discounted rate on their electric bill. In addition to the discounted rate, each of the top three households were also awarded a gift card for the overall amount of monetary savings they produced by reducing energy consumption.
At the start of the program, every member in each participating household was required to sign a pledge promising their effort to conserve energy. During the contest, participants received weekly letters in the mail that offered advice on how to reduce their energy needs and helpful behavioral modifying tips to reduce unnecessary energy consumption. Any household that included children received additional information with their weekly letter that was intended to educate children on the importance of saving energy. In addition to the weekly letters, each household was required to track their energy consumption behavior over the course of a week and log their information into an account setup by the local electric company. Every week, each participating household’s information was updated on the website, which provided a graph detailing their usage in comparison to other participating households.
The local contest was an overall success. Several community members participated and, within the three-month period, energy rates dropped significantly. Despite the competitive nature of the challenge, the relationship within the community, oddly enough, tightened, and many participating households began to work together in an effort to conserve energy. Months following the contest, many involved in the challenge, including my parents, continued their efforts in reducing energy consumption. In the end, the contest proved to be a very effective way to modify energy-consumption behavior. As with any effective intervention, the implemented program was structured to address an immediate issue, it demonstrated established goals, targeted specific behavior and influenced positive social change (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012, P. 63-65). In addition to resolving the immediate issue, the intervention, intended or not, also fostered a positive community relationship.
Frank, S. W., Jamie, G. A., & Larry, C. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed., pp. 63-65). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.