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—Charles F. “Chuck” Bonser, Dean Emeritus and founding dean in 1972

Why don’t people conserve energy and water?

Description of the video:

00:09
so in 2004 I started my graduate work at
00:13
Carnegie Mellon and I was looking for a
00:15
hairy scary problem to spend five years
00:17
of my life working on and I guess all of
00:19
you guys should do the same and at that
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that same year Pacala and Socolow wrote
00:24
this amazing paper in science magazine
00:25
in 2004 and what they said was and this
00:29
is the first line of their paper
00:30
humanity already possesses the
00:32
fundamental scientific technical and
00:35
industrial know how to solve the carbon
00:37
and climate change problem in the next
00:38
50 years alright so we have the solution
00:41
so what are we waiting for right so what
00:44
did they proposed in their paper they
00:46
said you can think about stabilizing our
00:49
co2 emissions by envisioning a
00:51
stabilization triangle so a variety of
00:54
different technologies go into the
00:56
stabilization triangle everything from
00:58
efficiency and conservation renewable
01:00
electricity carbon capture and storage
01:02
which basically means capturing the co2
01:04
from a power plant and putting it into
01:06
underground aquifers planting trees
01:09
nuclear energy biomass and fuel
01:11
switching so out of all of these
01:14
different technologies they also state
01:16
that each of these can reduce one Giga
01:18
ton of carbon per year Wow what they
01:22
also stayed in their paper is
01:24
improvements in efficiency and
01:25
conservation offered the greatest
01:27
potential to provide a wedge so my big
01:31
hairy scary question was why is it that
01:34
Americans don't conserve resources and
01:36
adopt efficient technologies so I
01:39
thought about why we don't act and you
01:41
can think of two separate models for why
01:42
we don't act one is the information
01:44
deficit model so if only you told me
01:46
what to do I'd do it I just don't know
01:48
I'm just completely uninformed the other
01:51
model is the motivation deficit model so
01:54
you know my neighbors are not doing it
01:56
it's too expensive too much time too
01:58
much effort I just don't feel like doing
02:00
it so you just have to motivate me and
02:01
once you motivate me I'll do it so today
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I'll be talking to you about the
02:06
information deficit model and what do we
02:07
really think about how much of a
02:09
resource we use so let me start off by
02:12
asking you guys
02:13
question if you were to if you were to
02:15
be asked by me right now what is the
02:17
single most effective thing you can do
02:19
to conserve energy in your life what
02:21
would you say just shout it out turn off
02:25
the lights hang your clothes less
02:29
washing anyone else line drying all
02:34
right so here's what my participants
02:35
said 20% of my participants that turn
02:39
off the lights all right
02:41
most single most effective thing then
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conserve energy I don't even know what
02:44
that means
02:46
drive less and bike used public
02:48
transportation change the setting of the
02:50
thermostat change my lifestyle not have
02:52
children so so in 2008 Gardner and stern
02:58
actually said that turning off the light
02:59
is great not amused turn off the juice
03:01
but it's not the single most effective
03:03
thing you can do to decrease energy use
03:05
in your life here is where we actually
03:08
use energy in the home number one use a
03:10
space heating followed by appliances
03:12
electronics lighting water heating and
03:15
air conditioning so we really missed the
03:17
mark in terms of thinking of what is
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most effective in terms of changing our
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own behavior next what I wanted to do is
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I wanted to figure out how do people
03:25
really think about energy we know from
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the moment we wake up in the morning
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we're constantly using energy in all of
03:31
its different manifestations heating
03:33
lighting cooling we drive places check
03:35
our email so over here on the horizontal
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so sorry on the vertical axis you have
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people's perceptions of energy use and
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on the on the x-axis you have actual
03:45
energy used and all of the data that
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falls along the diagonal line which is
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your Y is equal to X line means people's
03:51
perceptions match reality any anything
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that falls below the diagonal line means
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I'm under estimating how much energy
03:58
these different appliances use and
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anything above the diagonal line means
04:01
I'm overestimating now what are the
04:04
units of energy
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do you guys know I've actually tried
04:07
going to bars and asking people it's
04:09
really fun you should try it later
04:10
tonight some some people know BTUs but
04:15
I've had I've had folks actually look at
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me really perplexed so what I said was
04:19
assumed that a hundred watt light bulb
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uses a hundred units of energy in one
04:23
hour how many units of energy would all
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of these different appliance
04:27
use in one hour and that's basically
04:29
equal to one what hour so here is the
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data most most of most of the curve
04:34
actually falls below the diagonal line
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means in general we tend to
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underestimate how much energy we use but
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let me sort of unpackage this curve by
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giving you a few examples so people
04:46
think that a laptop actually confused
04:48
consumes twice as much energy than what
04:50
it really does so people think it's
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actually equivalent to 100 watt light
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bulb being left on for an hour when it's
04:56
only half that amount so that's an
04:58
overestimation another example is people
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think about when you ask people about
05:03
dishwashers they underestimated by a
05:05
factor of 9 so the underestimation
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starts getting more and more severe as
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you think about appliances that use a
05:10
lot more energy so people think two
05:13
lightbulbs when it's actually 18 next if
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you change your clothes washing setting
05:20
from hot to cold people tend to
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underestimate the amount of energy saved
05:24
by a factor 40 right so it people think
05:28
it's equivalent to one light bulb when
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it's actually equivalent to 40 okay
05:33
so again you know the challenge here is
05:35
and this is all of the data on the next
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slide so the challenge then is for
05:39
academics and activists practitioners is
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how do we hold on to the end of this
05:43
curve and pull it up towards the diagnol
05:45
how do we improve people's perceptions
05:47
of how much energy we're using in our
05:50
day to day activities and then the more
05:52
controversial question is does improving
05:55
our perceptions actually lead to
05:56
behavior change so next so since water
06:02
and energy are in this passionate tango
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we you know from the moment we wake up
06:05
we're also using water what do you think
06:08
of the most effective things you can do
06:09
in your life to decrease your water use
06:13
quit showering no showers okay change
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law don't do laundry so quit showering
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don't do laundry anyone else
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turn off the water while brushing your
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teeth all right you guys are a lot like
06:29
my participants so so 43% of my
06:34
participants at shorter showers alright
06:36
next 10% set turn off the water while
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doing activities not include
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brushing my teeth 7% said turn off water
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while brushing their teeth 5% conserve
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water again very vague and then 4% do
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less laundry or full loads of laundry so
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let's see how this stacks up against
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where we actually use water in the home
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so the number one water use in the home
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is our toilet we flush throughout the
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day and all of that water in terms of
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our gallons sort of adds up it
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aggregates up into quite a large amount
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followed by clothes washers showers
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faucets leaks and others so we really
07:13
tend to underestimate the value of our
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toilets so again I wanted to create the
07:19
same curve for water what what do our
07:20
perceptions of water used to really look
07:22
like so what is the unit of measurement
07:27
for water gallons we make we make
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decisions based on gallons almost every
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day we buy gallons of milk gallons of
07:33
gasoline so here I didn't actually have
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to provide people with a metric that
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they needed to understand so here it
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goes here is the curve what you so the
07:43
first thing you notice is again severe
07:44
under estimation and the under
07:46
estimation is more significant as you
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start thinking about activities that use
07:49
a lot of water so let me walk you
07:52
through a couple of examples people
07:54
think a standard washer actually uses
07:56
three times less water than what it
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really does so they actually think on
08:00
average that it uses 14 gallons when it
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actually uses 14 an outdoor pool is
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under estimated by a factor of 18 so
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people think roughly 900 gallons when it
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uses 17,000 gallons so on and so forth
08:14
so here all of the activities that I
08:16
asked so again the challenge is how do
08:18
you hold on to this curve and pull it up
08:20
towards a diagonally in prove people's
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perceptions of how much water and energy
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different activities use throughout the
08:27
day so here what the what both of the
08:30
curves look like on the same chart what
08:32
you notice for energy is it almost
08:33
becomes a flat line right so when I
08:36
think about appliances that use a lot of
08:38
energy the relative differences between
08:40
these appliances they all get smushed up
08:42
together so this is what we call the
08:43
compression bias I really can't tell the
08:45
difference when it comes to these
08:47
appliances that use a lot of energy the
08:49
good news is we do a lot better for
08:51
water there's less of the severe
08:52
compression it doesn't flap line
08:54
almost immediately so that's good news
08:56
the bad news is is that both of these
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apply of both of these resources are
09:00
completely underestimated and they
09:01
underestimated significantly so this is
09:05
what I wanted to show you about
09:06
information deficits but here's what you
09:08
can do in your life to decrease your
09:10
energy and water use so some of the most
09:13
effective actions that you can actually
09:14
take are replacing your incandescent
09:16
bulbs with light emitting diodes the
09:18
prices have gone down you can you can go
09:20
to the stores today and buy them buy a
09:22
fuel-efficient car the next time you're
09:24
you're buying a car get frequent cartoon
09:26
ups upgrade your heating ventilation and
09:28
AC system carpool to with your neighbors
09:31
to work if you can next in terms of how
09:34
do you save water
09:35
install a low flush toilet think about a
09:38
water efficient clothes washing machine
09:40
reducing shower times from from an
09:42
average of eight minutes to five minutes
09:44
so the average for America is eight
09:46
minutes at the moment only wash full
09:48
loads of laundry so believe it or not a
09:50
lot of us only wash half loads of
09:51
laundry which is actually a huge waste
09:53
of water and then if you can try this
09:55
out reduce flushes by 25% so what I
10:00
wanted to sort of walk you through today
10:01
was a lot of data on how we misperceive
10:04
how much resources we use and that sort
10:07
of again goes back to the information
10:09
deficit work that I've been doing for
10:10
the past 14 years
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but what I'd also want to sort of start
10:15
the conversation with you about is how
10:16
do we actually motivate change so from
10:20
once we correct these misperceptions
10:21
what do we really do with that how do we
10:24
actually get people to change their
10:25
behavior and I don't have any actual
10:27
grand silver bullet solutions but this
10:30
is what I'd like to challenge you with
10:31
work with me on this problem thank you
10:45
you
English (auto-generated)