Ready, Set, Reduce
The subject may seem better suited to straightforward informational programming, but in choosing the "reality" route, writes Carpenter, the producer was both banking on the format's popularity and tapping into recent research what inspires folks to do the right thing.
According to a recent American Psychological Association study, people are more likely to make green choices if they think others are, too. And according to Karen Ehrhardt-Martinez of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, competitions "can be very effective" in inspiring change because "social incentives are often more effective than economic incentives in spurring people to change their behavior."The results of "Energy Smackdown" are impressive. The winning Cluggish family reduced its carbon output by roughly two-thirds, from 18,692 pounds to 6,850 pounds -- putting them well below the national average of 15,000 pounds. And it wasn't especially hard, says Mrs. Cluggish.
People asked 'Aren't you relieved the competition's over?' ... But it didn't feel like a huge burden. We're paying 25 percent less for electricity, and I don't mind that my kitchen isn't overflowing with plastic bags now that I take tote bags to the grocery store.Makes you wonder whether utilities couldn't tap into this same competitive impulse to reduce, say, peak power demand and thus the need to build more generating plants. It seems like an idea worth exploring. In the meantime, Energy Smackdown's producer is looking to extend the competition to whole communities for season two. We'll stay tuned.