This is Scientific American 60-Second Science. I'm Cynthia Graber.Got a minute?
It's obvious that, say, turning the lights off saves money.
But being reminded that using less energy saves money may not be the most effective way to motivate consumer efficiency.
Instead, citing environmental and health benefits appears to an even bigger influence.
That's according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Air pollution from coal and natural gas plants has a demonstrated impact on childhood asthma and cancer.
But that point has not been well communicated as part of a conservation effort.
So the scientists monitored 118 Los Angeles apartments.
The residents received access to real-time information on household energy consumption, down to the level of individual appliances.
For slightly more than three months, half the households received weekly updates comparing their energy use to their most energy-efficient neighbors, along with the related cost savings.
The other group received weekly messages about the emissions and pollution they generated, and the resulting health impacts.
The cost savings group did not change their behavior significantly.
But the group that received the health and environmental information reduced consumption by 8 percent compared to the control.
And in households with children, the effect was even stronger: they reduced their use by a whopping 19 percent.
Research has shown that behavioral changes alone could lead to a 20 percent reduction in energy consumption, reducing carbon emissions by some 123 million metric tons each year.
Seems like it could be possible to mount a major conservation effort based on the right regular reminders.
Thanks for the minute, for Scientific American's 60-Second Science. I'm Cynthia Graber.