Meg Kneafsey is a returned International Citizen Service (ICS) volunteer with Raleigh International, a trustee for the charity, and a campaigner. To mark #ShowTheLove week (7-14 Feb), she shares her view on how we can motivate people to conserve energy.
We all know that by reducing our energy wastage we can help save the planet. However, as a global society we often don’t make even the smallest steps to conserve energy. Thinking from a purely financial standpoint, we have so much to gain!
A recent report from consulting firm McKinsey found that the United States could save $1.2 trillion through to 2020, by investing in improvements like sealing leaky building ducts and replacing inefficient household appliances with new, energy-saving models. That investment would cut the country’s projected energy use in 2020 by about 23 percent. So why do we, including myself, forget to do our bit when it’s so easy, helps our Earth, and could save us money?
Unfortunately, we are more than ever used to a life of convenience. We are connected to each other and can message someone across the globe, we can buy new items over the Internet and have them arrive the same day, we can have our garbage collected without having to think about where it will go. These are fantastic ways in which our world has developed, yet it has created idleness and the unwillingness to change our habits when we don’t have to.
Yet it doesn’t have to be this way and it simply cannot continue. Our planet is reaching breaking point as our demand for such fossil fuels as coal, oil, and natural gas increases. Less burning of fossil fuels also means lower emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary contributor to global warming, and other pollutants.
I believe that through three key steps we can make monumental reductions in our energy wastage by encouraging people to conserve.
1. Governments lead by example
Firstly, we need governments to not only support energy conservation, but to be leaders in it. Government buildings including schools, libraries, and prisons need to be modified to conserve energy. From sensor lights that only are on when needed, to compulsory recycling bins, to setting thermostats appropriately – all these small steps can show the public that the government is committed to its word and give ideas on how to conserve energy. Furthermore, governments need to implement policies that help the public make energy reducing decisions such as investing in strong public transport systems.
Like any social change, education is key. We need to be educating our schoolchildren on why they should conserve energy and how they can do it. Similarly, we need to be communicating with the public on the ways in which they can conserve energy through campaigns. Many people simply do not realise how easy it is to buy compact florescent lightbulbs or how setting your clothes washer to the warm or cold water setting, not hot, can save nearly 500 pounds of CO2 per year.
3. Reward Businesses
Finally, we want to ensure that the for-profit sector see benefits in conserving energy and do not lose out against competitors. We need governments to reward businesses that take meaningful and measurable steps to reducing their energy usage. Whether this is reducing their disposable plastic usage or making their products more ‘eco-friendly’. The rewards could be direct economic benefits or a certification to companies that are considered ‘energy efficient’.
Change starts small and then it can snowball. These three steps are for three parts of society; governments, the public, and the corporations. We can change an entire generation’s habits and make conserving energy a subconscious act. This way of motivation, making subtle lifestyle changes, can be incredibly effective. So let’s start lobbying our governments to lead the change!