Telling people about the health hazards of pollution on kids' health inspires them to use less electricity than telling them how much money they could save by cutting back on power use, according to US researchers.
People living in 118 apartment units in Los Angeles were part of the four month study and residents were given weekly feedback about their energy usage. One group was told about their electricity use compared to a more energy-efficient apartment nearby, and how much money they could save by turning off the lights and using less power. The second group was given similar feedback, and were also told about how much their energy use contributed to pollutant emissions, and how air pollution can cause childhood health problems like cancer and asthma. There was a control group which received no feedback at all.
It was observed that apartments that received the health-related warnings started using an average of 8 percent less power than the control group. In fact, in houses with kids, apartment dwellers reduced their electricity use by 19 percent. Apartments that were told only about cost savings from using less energy hardly changed their habits. Researchers said, "Touting monetary savings may not have worked, in part because electricity in the United States is already fairly inexpensive."
Lead author Magali Delmas, an environmental economist at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Anderson School of Management, said, "We're finding that you have to bundle the public good with the private good. Our message about health and the environment reminds people that environmentalism is also about them and their kids."
The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.