What behavior (human activity) would you try and alter to reduce energy usage and why?

My post in an online discussion forum for my Energy Policy and Politics class

What behavior (human activity) would you try and alter to reduce energy usage and why? How would you attempt to alter such behaviour?

When considering this question, I consciously avoided searching for figures on energy consumption / wastage. Instead, I tried recalling my “energy consumption journey map” from the moment I slept last night till now.

Here are some key activities that I suspect might have something to do with energy consumption:

  • Leaving my phone charging all night
  • Switching my fan on at its maximum speed all night (even though I had to use my blanket)
  • Forgetting to switch off my modem before I slept last night(!)
  • Realised my work desk’s badly positioned such that I couldn’t use natural light and had to switch on the room light
  • Bought takeaway lunch without a reusable container
  • Being distracted while working (I believe I can reduce my screentime and use less energy too)

Other activities that aren’t directly linked to energy:

  • Took a shower with a running showerhead
  • Brushed my teeth without a cup – I think I always cupped more water than I needed when I used my palms

What behavior (human activity) would you try and alter to reduce energy usage and why? How would you attempt to alter such behaviour?

I wish I could find a better way of overcoming my inertia when it comes to changing little habits in life. On a more detailed level, I wish to alter our usage of disposables and to curb energy usage by household appliances.

Reducing Our Usage of Disposables

This is so as I suspect the production of disposables potentially uses a substantial amount of energy as compared to the production and maintenance of reusables. This article here calculates the number of reuses required for reusable cups to break even with disposable cups. It appears that this endeavour to reduce the usage of disposables is more energy-efficient for household uses than for commercial uses.

Curbing Energy Usage by Household Appliances

As for curbing energy usage by household appliances in general, I think such efforts yield indirect, longer-term benefits, even if the shorter-term benefits don’t prove to be significant. As we attempt to curb energy usage by household appliances, we could become more mindful of the “flow” of energy in our everyday lives. While it sounds oddly whimsical, I suspect that the largely invisible / behind-the-scenes nature of energy usage is a barrier to further action on energy policies. Curbing energy usage by household appliances could help energy concerns claim a bigger share of public discourse and personal lifestyle choices.

How? Behavioural Economics + Accountability Tools?

As for “how”, just as I started with reflecting on my subconscious choices regarding energy consumption, I suspect attempts to alter behaviour would have to target the subconscious too. In this regard, behavioural economics and accountability checks might be helpful.

Examples to do with behavioural economics (reference)

  • Staus quo bias / Inertia could be capitalised on by default switch-off or energy-saver settings
  • Temporal and spatial discounting of benefits (for example, the joy of seeing financial gains from energy savings at the end of the month is severely discounted and overwhelmed by the joy of wasteful practices in the present) can also be overcome through more immediate rewards, such as praises from family members or social recognition for purchasing energy-saving appliances.

Here, I also recall a simple exercise we did during the Roots & Wings module last week. After setting our personal goals for the semester, we each had to find three individuals to tell one another about our goals. Telling someone our goals, even a stranger, could increase our degree of accountability much more than a public pledging exercise. To be accountable to someone seems to be more motivating than to be accountable to a faceless cause.

Also, I thought this might be interesting to those who’re interested in how behavioural challenges can be capitalised on: https://www.ted.com/talks/shlomo_benartzi_saving_more_tomorrow?language=en


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