Energy Saving Misconceptions

Recent studies show that many consumers have misconceptions about the positive benefits of their energy saving actions. In fact, most people have no idea of the extent to which they can reduce their carbon footprint. It’s sad to say, but most U.S. consumers still need to figure out how to embrace a realistically sustainable lifestyle.

A recent survey conducted by Columbia University’s Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, found that consumers underestimated their energy usage and potential savings by a factor of three. 

Consumers tend to overestimate low-energy saving activities (turning off lights, driving less, lowering the thermostat, etc.) and underestimate high-energy saving activities (more efficient light bulbs, hybrid cars, high-efficiency appliances, etc.). These statistics highlight the need to better educate the public on how to reduce energy usage and lower the resulting costs, as well as provide a better understanding  of the science behind individual carbon output. That’s basically the objective of Green Blizzard – to give a balanced, impartial point-of-view on the potential actions you can take to lower your carbon footprint.

Energy Saving Misconceptions

When asked an open question about the single most effective thing they can do to conserve energy, 40 percent of the people surveyed said the best options were to turn off lights, drive less or lower the thermostat. These are all important actions for sure, but each results in a very small reduction in an individual’s carbon footprint and has a miniscule impact on the environment. The options that involve less thought, research, effort and expense  are always the ones we tend to resort to first. But that doesn’t mean they are the most effective choices!

When asked the same question, 15 percent simply gave the vague answer “to conserve energy” – which indicates that they have no real clue about what to do. By the way, this answer got the second highest response and probably indicates that this group is already tuned out from an environmental perspective. Obviously, we’ll need to work on those laggards a little harder.

About 15 percent of U.S. consumers really get it. Since you’re reading this article, you’re probably one of the enlightened few. But the average person still does not understand that bigger, more meaningful advances in curtailing energy use can be made by switching to more energy-efficient appliances and means of transportation, making smarter purchases and obtaining power from sustainable sources. These options are the real home runs.

Having a baseline knowledge of what you consume is necessary in order to take meaningful action to reduce consumption. Some experts say that having an understanding of your energy baseline can help you modify your habits, which can lead to a 10 to 2o percent reduction in your energy consumption. The most meaningful gains will come from switching to more efficient bulbs, appliances and cars; smarter consumables; better insulated homes; and green energy sources. Only through these collective actions can we expect to make an impact as individual consumers.

Customer Engagement Websites

leaf blowers harm the environmentEnergy conservation websites designed to promote sustainable lifestyles are springing up all over the Internet. Each site, in its own way, is tackling the problems of public obstinance and consumer misconceptions. Some are taking a playful approach, offering point systems and rewards programs to provide motivation. Others are using social networking to spread the word, and some are simply providing useful insights and the opportunity to share ideas with like-minded consumers. 

Two interesting websites that caught our attention:

  • OPower – Offered by the start-up company that was recently visited by President Obama, this site builds customer engagement software for power providers. This service allows large corporations to interact with their customers, provide them with insights on their energy usage and help them be smart about consuming energy.
  • Repower – This site focuses on a community approach, helping you join with others in your area to collectively reach a designated state-wide goal of reducing dependence on coal-powered electrical plants.

We’ll be sure to share other insightful websites as we come across them. In the meantime, check out these other Green Blizzard articles:


About the author

Keith Blizzard

A life-long environmentalist, Keith set out on the never ending journey of adjusting his lifestyle to a more sustainable one, with a goal of annually shrinking his carbon footprint. When he looked around for a dependable source of meaningful carbon footprint reduction ideas, it was pretty lame - so he launched Green Blizzard loaded with eco-friendly lifestyle tweaks. When he's not managing Green Blizzard, you'll find him on the trails around Mid Coast Maine with his trusty trail companion mutt, Moose.