Energy Efficiency & Behavior Change

I recently participated in a behavior change workshop put on by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in which ‘behavior programs’ were defined, various behavior theories were discussed, and practical examples of behavior interventions in relation to the world of energy were given in response to this white paper. A large disagreement was whether or not existing utility programs and CPUC driven efforts already incorporate behavior change methods. One of the presenters held a degree in Cultural Anthropology and as they introduced her there were laughs as it was proclaimed that not many Anthropologists can be found in the realm of energy efficiency. Without writing a novel, here are my two cents:

My degree is also in Cultural Anthropology (with a minor in Exercise and Health Science) and while many people always asked what I would do with ‘that’, I simply brushed it off because, while I do understand the limitations when it comes to certain professions, what can’t you do with a social sciences degree? I studied people around the world and my experience has built a foundation from which to listen and learn from a culturally diverse and sensitive perspective.  As a staff person at a non-profit and an entrepreneur with my health coaching business, I know the cornerstone of everything is communication. What do people need, what do people want, and what are the motivations behind these feelings? Recognizing that the answers will vary across continents, countries, states, cities, neighborhoods, and even individuals is the key to success for any business model or program.

People want someone to listen to them - to truly listen.
Image source:
It’s often that they don’t even want someone to solve their problems. They want a sounding board - a place in which they are comfortable to let it all out and a person who can lend an ear to empathize. When given an outlet like this, support, maybe a few suggestions, and the power to make decisions for themselves, people are more likely to act on whatever problem with which they are facing. Despite the abundance of technology that infiltrates our daily lives, we are still human beings at the end of the day. Let’s revisit these simple, common sense practices of face to face interactions, brush up on our listening skills, respect one another’s beliefs even if they aren’t like ours, and learn to work together as people and not as test subjects for products and programs. Technology changes and comes and goes, but people will always be people – I hope you see what I am getting at. Once you get back to basics, I am beyond optimistic and confident that you will start seeing the desired results in your chosen industry.

Energy efficiency enthusiasts, fellow Cultural Anthropologists, and all other SJVCEO blog readers, I would love to hear your comments on this subject and the white paper.