A timely post about “green” given today is St. Patrick’s Day…
An interesting article called ‘How green is your wallet?’ was featured this week in The Globe & Mail (a major Canadian daily). What caught my attention was the fact that green consumer behaviour is motivated by more than environment. Money and social norms also play a key role. A very exciting and promising stat was the percentage of the population (Canadian) that used low-flow shower heads in 1991 compared to 2009 – increased from 28% to 63% – that’s terrific! And those who used low-flow toilets in 1991 to 2009 went from 9% to 42% (good; not great).
All of the other statistics presented looked at changes from 2007 levels to 2009 levels; which, not surprisingly showed only nominal changes:
- lowered the thermostat over night during winter: rose from 55% to 61% from 2007 to 2099
- homes that have at least one halogen light (although the graphic was of a CFL): no change of 35% from 2007 to 2009
- drank primarily bottled water: down from 31% in 2007 to 24% in 2009 (meaning more people were drinking tap water over (plastic) bottled water
How can you compare behaviour change of water conservation (low-flow toilets and shower heads) compared over an 18 year period to the other behaviour changes listed over only a TWO year periods? Why weren’t the stats compared to 1991 levels as the baseline?
The whole point of the article was to highlight that people are driven to positive change only when there is a cash incentive or net-negative cost impact on individuals’ wallets—as illustrated by a dramatic change in behaviour from 2007 to 2009 in the use of recycled or reusable bags for grocery shopping: a sharp rise from 30% to 49%. [Most provinces in Canada started to charge for plastic grocery bags in 2009 ($0.05 per plastic bag)].
This news mirrors what One Change experiences in our community programs. We harness the power of community networks to deliver free, tangible items that people recognize have value. These items trigger an action (like changing a bulb) that changes self-perception and provides an experience that stimulates a conversation and new social norms between neighbours. We don’t ask for money from those we talk to, but people recognize that we’re helping them save. All we ask is a commitment to the action in appreciation of their time to listen. When this approach is coupled (and timed) with other programs and traditional marketing outreach programs offered by governments, utilities and others with a vested interested in the change in behaviour of their customers (to conserve energy, water or fuel)—that is when significant change can happen over a short period of time.
So, it’s not just about environment. It’s about engagement—and savings—and so much more. We can get the job done if we are sensitive to the fact that not everybody is motivated to save the planet. Saving money is ok too.