Utilities and manufacturers who want to motivate consumers to buy and use green products sometimes turn to Suzanne Shelton. Her Knoxville, Tenn., advertising company, the Shelton Group, works "to bring sustainability to the masses."
Many Americans think they've done plenty to make their homes more energy-efficient but are frustrated that they're not seeing the results in lower utility bills, according to Shelton's sixth annual Energy Pulse survey. What's more, she said, homeowners think they've gone about as far as they can to improve their homes' energy efficiency.
She talked about what we'll do — and won't do — for our homes:
Your research shows that people think they've done plenty to improve their home-energy footprint, yet you think they're fooling themselves. Why?
There's a gross misperception that Americans think they've done a lot more than they have. Ninety percent of the population says they've changed their habits to be more energy-efficient, and 77% of them say they've changed most of their incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent lights or CFLs. But we know that's overstated. If it were true that people had changed their behavior, energy consumption would have gone down, but it hasn't.
Do their actions go beyond changing their light bulbs?
When we look at the profiles of Americans who we know are most inclined to do these kinds of things — they have the disposable income, they've upgraded their heating/cooling/air conditioning to be more energy-efficient, they've purchased Energy Star products, etc. — they say, "Thank you very much, I'm done now." They think they've done enough for their part.
One-third of people who have made those improvements say they haven't seen the improvements [in their utility bills] that they expected. And they say, "I've done a lot and I didn't see any savings from it, why should I bother?"
Is that dearth of savings because utility rates are going up?
That's part of it. They're also using more electricity — with cellphones, HDTVs, laptops and computers, they're using more devices than ever before, and they don't realize it.
People think that because they've installed CFLs, they can leave the lights on all the time. If they've bought [an energy-efficient] water heater, they can take long showers.
What would you consider to be the mainstream attitude about conservation today?