Americans in the Dark about Energy Conservation

Columbia University researcher Shahzeen Attari conducted a survey of 505 Americans in 427 different zip codes, and 34 states, about energy conservation. Her study indicated that the sample group was not aware of the most effective measures they could take to save energy. Turning lights off was selected as the best choice by the survey participants. Options such as purchasing fuel efficient cars, energy conserving appliances and weatherizing homes, which actually do make an impact, were not popular with the participants. Attari said that many people in the study seemed to believe in taking steps like turning off lights or unplugging cell phone chargers. 2.8 percent of the participants said that sleeping more and relaxing more would reduce their energy consumption (Table 1, Page 2).

The study group overlooked other consumer options such as switching from central air conditioning to single room air conditioners.

One of the study’s conclusions brought up prevailing energy misconceptions, “So long as people lack easy access to accurate information about relative effectiveness, they may continue to believe they are doing their part to reduce energy use when they engage in low-effort, low-impact actions instead of focusing on changes that would make a bigger difference.”

One of more surprising findings of the study was that, “participants who reported engaging in a greater number of pro-environmental energy-related behaviors had less accurate perceptions” (Page 3, bottom).

Another important point regarding single action bias was highlighted in the study. When people have taken one or two actions they believe reduce energy consumption, they don’t pursue any others. Attari commented on the single action bias, “[I]f we’re going to do just one or two things, we should focus on the big energy-saving behaviors. People are still not aware of what the big savers are.”

The median age of the survey group was 31. Eighty-four percent had high school diplomas, and 41 percent had bachelor’s degrees. Forty-seven percent self-identified as liberals, 31 percent as moderates and 22 percent as conservatives. Thirty-seven percent said they are environmentalists.

Image Credit: PiccoloNamek

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58 comments

Rob O.
Rob O.3 years ago

Check out enervee.com, a website that enables consumers, businesses and governments to buy products based on the personal cost of owning them rather than just the purchase price.

Alice D.
Alice C.4 years ago

Energy surveys on homes, schools and commercial buildings need to be done with follow up needed improvements. New construction energy codes should be upgraded. It's cheaper and more effective than drilling for more oil and gas.

Green Road A.
Dr. Good H.4 years ago

This is a defining moment for humanity. Are you up to the challenge of helping to create a new energy paradigm? http://t.co/AE7DjZP

David Hansen
David Hansen4 years ago

well one way to do it is in my blog here.
http://www.care2.com/c2c/group/ExitSigns

another is to STOP using CFLs as they contain mercury and when thrown away seep into the ground and ground water and start using the new White LED light. yes they are expensive right now but if we all started using them the price will come down.

I live in a rooming house and don't pay the light bill here but I bought one for S&G just to give it a try and it is as white as a cfl or regular light bulb.

Olena K.
Olena K.5 years ago

Long before it was ever fashionable, for primarily economical reasons, I've always lived by the three R's: reduce, reuse & recycle - especially reuse & reduce. By doing those 2 things, there was less for me to recycle.

Again, due to economic reasons, we have a window unit air conditioner and ceiling fans in the livingroom and 2 bedrooms to keep our 832 sq ft home comfortable during the hot, humid summer days.

A couple of winters ago, we finally had an opportunity to replace the windows in our home (house was built in 1929). We noticed the difference immediately! During the coldest winter months, our heating bills were cut by more than half!!!

There are still other things we need to do to our home to make it more energy efficient, but due to severe budget constraints, we're not able to replace some of our older appliances, insulate our walls, etc. We do what we can, but I know there's room for improvement.

As for the so-called 'energy saving bulbs' - a few people have pointed out the folly of those (Electra & Carol H come to mind). As Carol H has complained about her eyes burning, for me it's not only burning eyes, but also migraine headaches, due to that type of lighting. In our home, we use incadecent bulbs.

We need to educate ourselves about the pros and cons of our lifestyles, and how it impacts us and those around us. Wasteful lifestyle is no longer an option. However, before blindly purchasing and/or consuming suppposedly energy efficient produ

Sumit j.
Sumit jamadar5 years ago

AGREEABLE

Olivia Samerdyke
Olivia S.5 years ago

I love those electricity saver bulbs.

Monique D.
Monique D.5 years ago

Very interesting

Brenda L.
Brenda L.5 years ago

People are starting to do better with conserving energy, but postings like this will help them learn more. Thank you for letting others know.

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