Rettie, R., Studley, M. and Barnham, C.
CHARM: social norms marketing for energy efficiency.
First European Conference on Energy Efficiency and Behaviour 2009: Connecting Policy, Theory and Practice, Maastricht, The Netherlands, 18th-20th October, 2009.
UK focus group research with dark/light and non-green consumers explored attitudes to a range of government, charity, manufacturer and retailer sustainability initiatives. The study explored how consumers understand the term 'green' and its relation to concepts such as sustainability, eco-friendly, organic, global warming, human rights. Consumers found it very easy to define green and non-green behaviours, although they recognised that these were subject to change. This was because for them most behaviour was neither green nor non-green, but simply 'normal'. Consumers define 'green' and 'non green' in relational ways and both are related to a third concept - what they see as normal. Successful environmental initiatives, such as recycling, are 'normalised' and become part of everyday life. This insight provides a way of understanding how consumers relate to energy saving initiatives.
This research has part of the inspiration for CHARM, a major EPSRC funded UK project, which will critically evaluate the use of social norm marketing. One of the CHARM case-studies will focus on electricity consumption. Research suggests that feedback on individual consumption can reduce energy usage, and that this reduction is increased by communication of average levels of consumption for relevant social groups, e.g. for a particular street. This research will evaluate this process, installing hardware and testing feedback in several hundred homes, and combining this with extensive qualitative research on the customary practices that underlie energy consumption, and on ways in which these practices can be challenged and changed by information about what other people do.
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