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If we take the time to understand what motivates people and engage them on their terms, then we can give them immediate outcomes that they really care about, rather than the abstract idea of saving some distant polar bear. We can give the vast majority of people, who may not identify themselves as ‘sustainable’, ways to contribute to carbon and energy saving that are easy, fun and fit their idea of who they are.

One of the things that separates the projects that work from the projects that don’t is how motivated the participants are – the central messages tend to be about what people should do to save carbon, and the truth is that most people don’t find that very exciting. Many people – most people in fact – think that energy and carbon saving sounds good, but it’s not at the top of their list. The reason that reaching these people is so important is because that’s about 90% of us. We thought it would be worth finding out how much of a difference it can make if you join up the human and technical sides of efficiency. Building on nudge


theory and techniques from social networking and ‘game mechanics’, CarbonCulture worked with staff at a number of organisations, including the Department of Energy and Climate Change, to understand them, what motivates them, what they really want. Based on what we learnt, we developed a range of digital media tools, or ‘apps’ that can be accessed through a PC or mobile devices and incentivise people to adopt behaviours that have a carbon-saving outcome. One of these, ‘Scrunch’, is designed to reduce demand for lighting in the evening. Another, ‘Foodprints’, is designed to lead to the staff canteen ordering less meat

and more veg. We built a bespoke social networking platform to engage staff through fun and interesting ‘apps’ in a series of challenges, building in the elements of competition and sharing with friends and colleagues that are so key to the success of social networking. These tools take a very different approach from telling people what they should do to reduce carbon – they give their users something they want. ‘Scrunch’ provides a high-quality evening workspace with tasty snacks where you don’t have to wave to keep the lights on and ‘Foodprints’ gives staff points and rewards for choosing a healthier lunchtime diet. These simple ideas encourage people to do something that will measurably improve their own lives, with carbon-savings designed-in as a welcome by-product.

The Carbon Reporting app, which connects to energy meters and needs little engagement from staff to become an effective energy saving tool, is already running at eight Government departments including Number 10 Downing Street, HM Treasury, Cabinet Office and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. We

are working with leading corporations to help them cut bills across their estates, and deliver staff and stakeholder engagement at the same time.

So it turns out that with careful design, working with culture to save energy is not as scary as it seems. Our work with CarbonCulture shows it can be cheap, efficient and scalable, and the question now who will be the leaders in using these new technologies to cut their bills?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Luke is a strategist and entrepreneur, founding four design-led social ventures including Onzo, one of the first smart- meter developers and now high-growth global business; and CarbonCulture, which provides real-time energy and carbon reporting for the Department for Energy and Climate Change, Number 10 and HM Treasury, and is running landmark behaviour change projects for Defra and DECC. He is also director of More Associates, a sustainable innovation practice. Luke was appointed a London Leader for the London Sustainable Development Commission in 2010.


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