17 May, 2011
We recently heard about an interesting project in Brighton where one street has reduced its energy consumption by 15 per cent in just three weeks.
In March and April residents of Tidy Street were asked to review their electricity meters daily and enter the readings into a website that gave them feedback on their usage compared to the average for Brighton, and other UK regions. The results were then painted onto the road surface outside residents’ homes, as part of a public chalk artwork by local artist Snub.
It is just one of the ‘Change’ initiatives, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to explore how technology can be used to change human behaviour.
It is a fantastic example of engagement at community level, resulting in a fundamental change in behaviour. But it is the local approach and the simplicity of the idea that make this project, and its success, so compelling.
We all know that raising awareness is a very important element in encouraging people to change their behaviour – to take regular health checks or make a donation to a certain charitable cause, for example. However, we often need more than this to change the habits of a lifetime.
The Tidy Street Project has successfully engaged the local community with their energy usage and harnessed the persuasive power of social norms. But effective engagement isn’t about pointing the finger at those who still need to catch up. What counts is that residents were also given the information they needed, when they needed it, in a way that resonated and inspired action.
The residents of Tidy Street are now champions for the cause and are passing information onto neighbours, friends and family, pushing the impact of the project way beyond the end of their street.
For more information see tidystreet.org