An Effective Energy Conserving Intervention

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.


  1. Christopher M Byham

    It sounds like whoever implemented this intervention did a great job with step two in the applied social psychology intervention process (arriving at a solution). This involves finding out if other solutions already exist, usually through a literature review (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts 2012, pg 64) and modifying them to their specific purpose.
    I say this because it sounds like social identity theory and social comparison theory were at least partly used to motivate conservation. Social identity theory states that people want to feel good about themselves and their group (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012, pg 340). Social comparison theory states that we compare ourselves to an objective standard or social standard when an objective standard is not available (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012, pg 202). So when the families were shown the graph with their usage compared with the neighbor’s usage, they wanted to compare (social comparison theory) favorably (social identity theory) against other households (social standard).
    The company who implemented this strategy clearly did some homework to ensure their intervention would be a success. Thank you for the post, Siero would be proud!


    Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

  2. I too wrote about my personal experience with reducing my family’s consumption of energy resources. Initially we made the changes due to our economic situation, which demanded that we cut corners on lots of things. The most flexible was our energy usage, from electricity to gas. We also reduced our use of water. I found that even when our financial situation got better, that we maintained the habits. Was this true for your family after the contest was over?

    I also experienced friends and colleagues that I shared with in regards to the changes we had made, and how it reduced our monthly expenses, that they too began doing some of the things we were doing. The little changes my family made had an impact beyond our monthly bills. One of my friends who was not fond of the “lighting” of CFL light bulbs, went out and bought them after I showed her how my electric bill had reduced from that minor change in our home. Another idea that I shared was collecting the rain water from our gutters to be used to water our yard. This relates to the idea in the book that people with common interests and beliefs tend to socialize with and influence each other (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).

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