Energy Engineering Conscience – University of Sheffield responds
At the University of Sheffield we are exploiting the opportunity to reconnect people to their resource use. Climate change science is slowly being increasingly accepted, but it has to be used in the right way. Rewards and incentives get our staff and students into good habits, not scare tactics. It means we can develop staff and graduates who understand and are prepared for the future’s challenges. In the process, we get them more involved in our University’s work, taking students out of the “student bubble” and showing everyone their potential impact. The following three case studies of behaviour change campaigns, all focused on switching off, taught us valuable lessons:
The Arts Tower Blackout proved the potential impact of behaviour change. The iconic Arts Tower, visible for miles, was refurbished only 2 years ago with new energy efficient technology. We, with 26 staff and student volunteers, recorded which office equipment was unnecessarily left on one weekend and switched it all off. Conscientious switching off reduced energy usage by 20%, giving annual potential savings of 26 tonnes of carbon and almost £5,000 in one building – which already has energy efficient technology. We showed that small actions add up to have a large effect (bear in mind that we have hundreds of buildings at Sheffield), which has motivated others to take part in a larger Blackout.
The Faculty of Engineering “Switch-Off Weekend Event” was created by an engineer for engineers, using the right incentives for the right audience. It directly equated energy savings to money and faculty-specific benefits, putting money saved towards scholarships for future engineering students. What’s more, an infographic with technical information encouraged technically-minded staff to engage with the campaign. The event was a great success, saving £1,500 over 2 days and creating 3 scholarships.
Student Switch Off, franchised by the NUS, uses the right incentives for the right audience at the right time. Students submit photos of energy-saving poses to Facebook competitions and win club tickets and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. It overcomes the built-in “disincentive” from including energy use in students’ rent in residences. The key is basing its approach firmly in behaviour change psychology. Habits (such as energy usage) are easiest to change during “moments of change”, e.g. when people move away from home, and fun peer-to-peer competition is more effective than information at changing behaviour (“New Rules: New Game”, Futerra). Its success is obvious: this year we saved 82 tonnes of carbon and over £12,000 on energy use in residences.
These campaigns taught us that showing the significant effect of behaviour change motivates others to take part; providing the right incentives for your audience helps everyone relate to the event; and picking the right time using behaviour change theory helps embed behaviours as habit.
We are not suggesting that these campaigns will change the world, but by grasping the opportunities presented to us by climate change IN THE RIGHT WAY we can reconnect people to their energy usage, which has a real impact.
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Kim Croasdale (author), Sustainable Behaviour Assistant, Tim Allen, Environmental Project Officer and Environmental Coordinator, and Jon Gregg, Graduate Intern for Reducing Carbon Footprint by Individual Behaviour Change - Faculty of Engineering, are all leading the University of Sheffield to improve their environmental impact. The case studies above are just one example of how each of them are encouraging staff and students to take responsibility for their actions.
You can read more on the behaviour change work at the University of Sheffield by visiting www.sheffield.ac.uk/efm/engineeringmaintenance/energy_carbon-mgt/behaviourchange