garageIn our industry, we spend lots of time talking with people about their buildings, their systems, their policies, their behaviors, and their goals related to energy and water use. We are always looking for cost-effective ways to reduce energy and water use as well as resources to help finance upgrades and initiatives in the quest for better performance. The great thing is, if an organization is interested in investing some time and a bit of its own capital, there are resources available in most communities. In fact, in our community here in Fort Collins, it’s amazing what is available between utility rebates, grants, and technical support.  So why is it, then, that getting people and businesses to take advantage of these opportunities can be so challenging?

Perhaps it’s because we’re all really busy…or conservation is low on our list of priorities …or trying to figure out how to access available resources is too complicated…or we don’t think about how much money we lose by NOT taking action. The list of excuses could go on, much like the list of reasons why I don’t clean out my garage even though every time it snows I really want to park somewhere dry and warm.  And on those wintery days, I feel the chilly reminder of the lost value of my over-stuffed garage.

Most folks will agree that using less is a good thing and that saving money as a result is a great thing – it just makes sense. But perhaps when the rubber hits the road, we really want to use less and save money without having to think about it or do much. It’s got to be easy − or resources have to get much more expensive – for us to invest the effort and money for greater efficiency. Since no one wants the expensive option, our best bet is to focus on the “make it easier” option.

Some areas of conservation will be easy as a result of evolving efficiency standards related to products we use in our homes or workplaces. Simply replacing an older, less efficient appliance, piece of office equipment, or HVAC unit with a higher efficiency variety will help us save automatically. And in many communities, there are incentives available to take the sting out of purchasing those kinds of items.

Other best practices identified by The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and the Department of Energy that make it easier for people to act include:

-One-stop-shop websites linking to available efficiency resources,
-Hand-holding and navigation assistance,
– Quick program response and implementation,
– Low cost and no hassle financing,
– Conservation competitions,
– Limited time offers,
– Understanding what people and businesses want and value (lower costs, higher occupancy, increased competitiveness, freed resources for other priorities, etc.) and finding ways to communicate efficiency in those terms,
– …and finally, immediate rewards.

So I circle back around to my cluttered garage analogy. What will it take, really, for me to act? Well….I just might do it if someone offered to help me, I could be done in a single afternoon before the weather gets cold, I know ahead of time where to take all the stuff I don’t want/need, my family members have given me permission to throw away old stuff that doesn’t belong to me (think building owner/tenant conundrum), and there is an immediate reward at completion – say a cold beer and supper prepared by someone other than myself.

What are you doing this weekend?