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Tackling Climate Change from Home: How to Turn Good Intentions into Positive Actions

The behaviours of domestic energy consumers play a vital role in the UK’s plan to reach net zero by 2050. But despite this, 44% of Britons are unsure of what actions they can take to tackle climate change.

If we genuinely want to create a more climate-friendly Britain, then everyone needs to do their bit. Research shows that most of us are concerned about the impacts of climate change. But, this has not yet translated into wholesale shifts in behaviours from consumers at home. At Smart Energy GB, we wanted to understand more about this gap – if most of us want to do our bit, why aren’t we all taking action?

We commissioned behavioural science experts, The Behavioural Architects, to investigate this. They’ve produced a report which bridges the gap between those who have already worked to develop more climate-positive energy habits at home, and those who want to but face barriers in doing this.

Tackling Climate Change From Home Report

We think the learnings from this are so important, that we asked them to produce a communications checklist that we want to make freely available to businesses, charities, and other organisations working to tackle climate change. This free resource is available to download below. It sets out tips from behavioural science to help organisations produce compelling messages which will lead to action – and ultimately, a greener, healthier GB.

Communications Checklist: How to Turn Good Intentions into Positive Actions

Below you will find the key take-outs from the report, as well as a link to download it for yourself.

Driving change

It’s one thing to think that individuals have a responsibility to reduce carbon emissions, and another to act in a way that reflects this. In behavioural science, this is known as the ‘intention-action gap’. Because of this phenomenon, a wider set of motivations must be accessed in order to drive change.

The five leading motivations to adopt energy-saving behaviours are:

  • Cost saving
  • Protecting the next generation
  • Wasting less
  • Being ‘Green’
  • Feeling tech-savvy

The four drivers of change

There are four main drivers of behaviour change:

  • Motivation: see ‘Driving change’ above for examples of motivations.
  • Trigger: Anything that prompts the consumer to do the action now.
  • Ability: How easy (or difficult) it is for the consumer to complete an action.
  • Reward: The ‘feel good factor’ felt by most after adopting a climate-friendly behaviour.

We found that everyone can take action, but will do so in different ways and to greater or lesser extents depending on these factors.

Alongside this, living in a rental property is an additional barrier. If these barriers are not addressed, efforts to reach net zero by 2050 may be at risk.

Eight in-home energy-saving behaviours

This report uses motivation, trigger, ability and reward to review eight in-home energy-saving behaviours and find out how we can encourage energy users to be more willing to participate in reaching net zero.

The eight energy-saving behaviours are:

  • Washing clothes at 30 degrees or less
  • DIY draught-proofing
  • Turning the thermostat temperature down
  • Installing a smart thermostat
  • Switching appliances off stand-by
  • Changing to a green energy tariff
  • Installing a smart meter
  • Switching to a Time of Use energy tariff

The role of smart meters and in-home displays

69% of smart meter owners say that they are more conscious of their energy use (Smart Energy GB Outlook, 2020).

Person making tea with an in-home display beside her mug

The new research shows that five out of fifteen in-home display users claimed to have actively used their in-home display to reduce their energy consumption. These people claim to have been given a thorough lesson on how to use their in-home displays and also received personalised feedback from their energy suppliers.

The smart future report also shows that those who were not introduced to their in-home display properly (or not at all) showed lower engagement with their smart meter which could lead to a lower engagement in energy saving behaviours.

Many non-users of smart meters believe that by getting one, the ability to act on specific energy saving behaviours will become easier. Namely:

  • Switching appliances off stand-by.
  • Turning down the thermostat.
  • Washing clothes at a lower temperature.

Optimising behaviour change

“Behaviour science tells us that if people receive timely and personalised feedback on an activity or task, it can motivate them, increase their engagement and, ultimately, help them to achieve their goal.”

The Behavioural Architects have created a free and useful checklist that helps you develop communications that can effectively turn good intentions into positive actions. Click the link below to download the full checklist:

Download the report below for a more in-depth dive into how to make energy-related behavioural changes in the UK: