4 Tips on Guiding Employees to Greener Energy Habits

4 Tips on Guiding Employees to Greener Energy Habits

Your employees' behavior can make the difference between whether your company's energy strategy produces outstanding results or insignificant savings.

In a report published this week, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy distills five case studies on the subject to offer advice. ACEEE Senior Researcher Shui Bin took a look at the federal "Green the Capitol" program in the United States, the Empire State Building's energy management program for tenants, and programs in Canada at a utility, a government building and a university-owned hospital.

Based on that review, Bin found four elements common to each of the efforts:

1. Leadership Set the Tone. Upper management led by example, set the tone with strong commitments to the programs and solid branding.

2. Programs Involved Strong Teams. In addition to green teams, programs featured a project committee and participation by peer champions.

3. Smart Use of Communication Tools. Programs reached out to their target audience through multiple channels: emails, websites, public meetings, posters and other visual prompts, like stickers.

4. Use of Multiple Engagement Techniques. Programs connected with building occupants through a variety of techniques to engage interest and motivate employees and tenants toward greener behavior. Feedback, benign peer pressure, competition and rewards were among the techniques used most frequently.

"Most notable is the degree to which the support of upper management, which is strongly stressed in all of the reviewed cases, proves to be critical to the development and success of an energy behavior program in the workplace," Bin said in the report.

Bin also noted that the most successful efforts integrated strong programs focused on behavior in broader, often comprehensive, sustainability projects.

The Green the Capitol program, for example, saw a 74 percent reduction in carbon emissions within 18 months of its launch as a result of combined efforts that included using energy efficient equipment and products, changing the types of fuel used and changing behavior.

The Empire State Building, the site of a much-publicized retrofit and an innovative green leasing/tenant management program, expects to reduce energy use by 31 percent.

Another ACEEE report, which is being released later today, says Americans should "think bigger" in their approach to saving energy.

People tend to focus on individual efforts that are often related to purchasing -- such as buying CFL bulbs or energy-efficient appliances -- instead of considering that enormous savings can be reaped from broad-based energy-saving strategies with a systems approach, the report notes.

According to ACEEE, the U.S. could reduce energy consumption by more than 50 percent, save consumers more than $300 billion a year, and add nearly two million jobs by 2050 by following "a more productive investment pattern" that includes consideration of industrial processes and improvement to infrastructure.

Two other recent reports indicate that now is the time to tap into Americans' interest in saving energy.

A survey by the Consumers Union and the Building Codes Assistance Project found that upwards of 75 percent of respondents support energy codes being adopted by a growing number of cities and states.

Other findings include:

  • 84 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that more energy-efficient buildings would reduce energy use and pollution.
  • 79 percent agreed that disclosure of a home’s energy usage would enable them to make an informed decision about a new home purchase.
  • 74 percent agreed that energy code standards would help ensure that new buildings would be "built right the first time."
  • 75 percent agreed that energy codes should be enforced like other safety and quality standards of construction.

A study by the Institute for Electric Efficiency found that energy efficiency programs by utilities are growing in number and in the amount of savings realized. Figures released last week show that:

  • Ratepayer-funded energy efficiency and demand response programs in the U.S. saved the equivalent of 112 million megawatt-hours of electricity in 2010, about enough to power 10 million homes. The savings are 21 percent greater than those in 2009.
  • Efficiency expenditures in 2010 totaled $4.8 billion, 28 percent more than in 2009.
  • Electric utilities accounted for 88 percent of all ratepayer-funded electric efficiency expenditures in 2010.
  • Ratepayer-funded electric efficiency budgets totaled $6.8 billion in 2011.
  • Since 2007, savings have grown 80 percent.


Photos of a green light switch and a keyboard with an energy saving key via Shutterstock.com.