Over the past few years, Americans’ energy-efficiency efforts have flatlined. In fact, a new report shows that in 2016, the majority of Americans didn’t do a single thing to improve their home energy efficiency.
Why? Because they don’t feel the financial pressure to do so.
“When times are good, the often minimal savings that energy efficiency brings are perceived as not worth the effort; even the catastrophic weather events of the past few years haven’t pushed Americans to take action,” according to the Shelton Group’s 2016 Energy Pulse Special Report.
The Shelton Group has been analyzing Americans’ energy-efficiency attitudes since 2005. For the 2016 report, it surveyed 2,025 Americans nationwide.
Past reports show that most people’s home-energy initiatives spiked during the Great Recession and its aftermath (2009–12), and leveled off starting around 2013. “Numbers for 2015 and 2016 are very low—the lowest we’ve ever seen for some activities, such as installing high-efficiency windows, caulking/weatherstripping and changing home habits to be more efficient,” the report states.
So, it seems that savings-focused energy efficiency messaging has lost its efficacy. But what works instead?
Concern about the environment may be the real motivator
The report states that in 2015, the majority of Americans across all demographics, in all parts of the country, began to believe that not only is climate change real, but it’s primarily caused by humans.
Nearly two-thirds of the 2016 survey respondents also believe this, and the number increases to 72 percent in the group of people most likely to be able to afford energy-efficiency measures—those with household incomes over $75,000.
Another 67 percent think that personal conservation efforts can make a real difference in climate change. In the high-income group, that number jumps to 74 percent.
That has led the Shelton Group to conclude that concern for the environment is now a mainstream attitude, and using climate change as a corporate sustainability tool may no longer be a polarizing choice.
“There are a couple of reasons to take a long, hard second look at what environmental messaging offers,” the report states. “The first is the possibility for genuinely inspirational messaging (saving the planet has much stronger narrative power than saving $75 a year on your energy bill), and the second is that even though other issues such as the economy have hogged the spotlight in recent years, the American mindset on the environment has quietly shifted in the background.”
The report recommends that sustainability messages of the future start with how home energy-efficiency initiatives can help improve the environment. Then, discuss money, but as an investment with an environmentally feel-good return: Making your personal home more energy-efficient can improve the health of your larger home, Earth.
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