Americans are Clueless on Saving Energy

A new survey of Americans shows that many Americans believe saving energy can be done using relatively useless methods.

The survey, which asked Americans in 34 states what they believed was the most effective way to save energy, found that many Americans have a very limited understanding of what they can do and what their actions are doing.

“When people think of themselves, they may tend to think of what they can do that is cheap and easy at the moment,” said lead author Shahzeen Attari, a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University’s Earth Institute and the university’s Center for Research on Environmental Decisions. On a broader scale, she said, even after years of research, scientists, government, industry and environmental groups may have “failed to communicate” what they know about the potential of investments in technology; instead, they have funded recycling drives and encouraged actions like turning off lights.

The Earth Institute of Columbia University writes:

The largest group, nearly 20 percent, cited turning off lights as the best approach—an action that affects energy budgets relatively little. Very few cited buying decisions that experts say would cut U.S. energy consumption dramatically, such as more efficient cars (cited by only 2.8 percent), more efficient appliances (cited by 3.2 percent) or weatherizing homes (cited by 2.1 percent). Previous researchers have concluded that households could reduce their energy consumption some 30 percent by making such choices—all without waiting for new technologies, making big economic sacrifices or losing their sense of well-being.

Interesting and not very uplifting news here. Hopefully, we can do better at communicating where the biggest savings can be made. Read more via The Earth Institute.

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3 thoughts on “Americans are Clueless on Saving Energy”

  1. It makes sense that participants would optimistically err on the side of thinking that daily actions under their control have a lot of impact – it takes effort to remember all the small habits.

    In reality, behavioral changes are a lot less “sticky” in terms of long-term energy savings than energy-efficiency retrofits or appliance upgrades. It’s pretty easy to let habits slide, but permanent improvements to infrastructure require less behavioral change after the initial installation.

    More at

  2. I hope we see a significant reaction to this research in the environmental community. We have spent so much time selling the simple changes, that we have really overlooked giving people a clear message on what the best changes they can make. Let’s make this a turning point in how we address environmental issues. With 75% of people making efforts like unplugging unused appliances, its less important to explain the importance of environmental efforts and increasingly important to direct people appropriately. Failing to do this could have consequences beyond a weak environmental benefit, they could discourage people as they see little return on their efforts.Its time to make a change in environmental messages and to start seeing some positive results!

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