If Your Computer Dripped, Would You Turn it Off?

Posted October 24, 2016

Every year, the ILLUME team looks forward to the Behavior, Energy & Climate Change Conference (BECC).  This conference brings together so many bright and talented people– academics, techies, government policy wonks, evaluators and utility folks. Everyone is there to discuss how we can use the power of behavioral science to control climate change. Without fail, everyone gushes about how much they learn at BECC.  But this year, an unexpected group got something great out of the event–the hotel staff. Let me explain.

As a fun and interactive way to gather the themes and quotable moments from the week–ILLUME made a BECC mural.  Participants were encouraged to submit ideas that most impacted them and I added them to the mural. unknown-1

Throughout the week, the hotel staff were bemused (and completely gracious ) about the whole activity, frequently coming by to chat and see what else had been added.

One night, two young staff member were fervently discussing a section of the mural. As I came by to clean up my paint brushes, the young women looked at me with wide eyes and said, “This has just blown my mind!” She was pointing to an image of a computer with water pouring out that read “If your computer dripped, would you turn it off? Make energy tangible.”  Shaking her head, she said, “I had no idea energy was being used!  I never thought about it before!  Of course! Everyone needs to know about this!”  True to her word, she made it her mission to show all of her co-workers.  Sunknownhe dragged over at least half a dozen of them. Her manager was particularly excited and exclaimed, “We need to teach everyone on staff about this!” After some time, the young women asked me how much I would charge her to cut out that section so she could take it home.  I told her I would gladly make her her own and I did.  She excitedly hugged me and continued to proselytize to her co-workers about the importance of turning off and unplugging appliances.  I was completely overjoyed and brimming with excitement! Is there any better outcome of making a piece of art than to have it resonate so strongly with someone else? As I reflected on this interaction I was deeply impressed by several factors, so neatly aligned with why we were at BECC in the first place:

  • Words Matter!  The simplicity of the message, paired with an evocative question helped this concept to click.
  • Images seal the deal! In this field, it is so difficult to make energy TANGIBLE. Energy invisibly powers every aspect of our life, but until we can see it, behavior change will be a struggle.
  • Networks are key!  The most powerfulimg_3080 moment about this whole interaction was that even though there were hundreds of experts on energy in the room, the person who made the biggest difference was this enthusiastic young woman, pushing her coworkers to re-examine how they use energy.