As an energy management professional, I am always reading terms such as “Smart Grid”, “energy efficiency”, and “carbon footprint”. Among my peers, I also use such terms regularly. However, the esoteric use of such language is proving to have little effect among the masses. Some of us are attempting to be good environmental stewards, but let’s face it – most of us are energy hogs.
I say this to illustrate a point, and it is not my intention to be judgemental. The fact is that public-interest institutions and organizations have to do a better job in delivering a value proposition to the average citizen. Utilities have to engage consumers in ways that encourage them to embrace behavioral modification that results in energy conservation. It is imperative that local governments develop communication plans designed to engage citizens in substantive ways that make them want to recycle. I live in a small suburb of Cleveland that offers weekly pick up of recyclable material (cans, glass containers, plastic). Yet there are only a few of us on my entire street that voluntarily place their recyclable items curbside.
Surely, a community of educated and professional people know better. The fact is poor messaging results in a lack of awareness in any community. All schools should integrate environmental and energy literacy into the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) curriculum. Religious institutions need to align spiritual messages with principles of environmental stewardship. Every level of government should have someone who ensures that we meet our growing energy needs without compromising our planet. In addition, this person should lead effective education and awareness campaigns for the public. It is also about time that utilities develop hands-on tactics that enable customers to save money while reducing energy consumption.
The point is that we need to leverage those with existing political and social capital to drive home the message. We have to educate, and then reinforce what’s learned. From your preferred position, let us advocate for a sustainable tomorrow.