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Competition Can Increase Sustainability

By Sharon Chen
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When it comes to sustainability and climate action, what motivates people to change their behavior? According to behavioral experts, achievement and identity are the most important factors when it comes to green behaviors like saving energy. Recently, a Davidson College student has also found that competition can encourage climate action; by polling almost one thousand participants about their motivations to save energy, Becky Johnson found that competition is a fun way to increase behavioral modifications. Universities and colleges participate in competitions to use less plastic bottles, or increase energy efficiency in science labs, and this is a timely reminder that using competition and school spirit are fun ways to bolster sustainability. 

CertifiedSaver Brings Competitive Spirit to Sustainability

Morgan Orangi | Davidson News | February 19, 2016 

More than money, behavior experts say achievement and identity motivate people to save energy. Add to that some healthy competition with friends and neighbors, and suddenly saving energy becomes more like a game than a chore–at least that's what the big utility companies hope.

Becky Johnson '16 decided to explore that notion by first finding out what motivates consumers and then creating a program that taps into those motives. She surveyed more than 900 participants, asking questions such as: Would you make an effort to save more energy if you were able to see how you compared to others in your state? Would you be more likely to purchase the products or services of a company whose employees participate in energy-saving programs?

The answers informed the creation of CertifiedSaver, which features a dashboard that allows users to view their electric and gas bills, compare their usage to others and gain energy-saving certifications.

Just a few years ago, a number of utility companies began experimenting with energy savings programs that harness the power of social competition. The utilities stand to benefit from these programs in the face of government conservation mandates and rising costs associated with construction of power plants and distribution systems.

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