Tools for influencing routine behaviours

This Tool group offers you advice on tools for influencing routines and habitual behaviour:

  • Create awareness of habits
  • Emotional appeals for changing habits
  • Rational appeals for changing habits
  • Feedback for changing habits
  • Build on moments of change
  • Use prompts and change the user's physical environment
  • Use commitment and goal-setting
  • Use competitions

Click on the headings below to read more about the tools that are relevant for you.

It is usually hard to break old habits or adopt new ones. Most people need to be made aware that they can influence their energy consumption significantly through changes in energy usage habits.

There is lots of information and advice around. In order to gain your target group’s attention and interest, you need to reach them with some sort of emotional appeal. Emotional appeals draw on positive or negative motives. Examples of emotional appeals and related energy routines and habits include:

While people engage with energy conservation messages on the basis of emotional appeals, the rational argument needs to be in place as well. Why are the behaviours you are targeting important, what difference do they make, how do behaviour changes translate into savings in national energy use, carbon dioxide emissions and costs for the household or organization?

Knowing how much one consumes is essential for energy efficiency and energy conservation. Feedback on energy use can also enhance people’s feeling that they are able to control their energy consumption. However, households or small businesses often cannot make sense of their energy bills. Thus, additional feedback may be needed in the form of meters or informative energy bills. Feedback can also be produced by monitoring project achievements.

Habitual behaviour is sustained by one’s environment. People have certain ways of behaving at home or at work, and it is difficult to break one’s habits. One way to change habits is to target moments when things are changing in any case, for example: move to a new home, major home renovations, purchase of a new appliance, children start school or move to a new workplace or change of work tasks.

Habits are shaped by the physical environment, which triggers habitual behaviours. If you want to change habits, one way is to change the environment. For example, if someone wants to stop eating cookies, they can help themselves by moving the cookie jar to another place.
Prompts are one easy way to change the physical environment of your target group. They can be stickers that are to be placed in visible places (e.g. on the refrigerator door, in the bathroom).

Commitment to goals refers to the selection of a certain reference point , e.g. 15% reduction in electricity use within 6 months. The aim is to reinforce motivation by getting your target group to set targets and keep track of how they are being met. The power of commitments depends on how seriously your target group takes their commitment. Serious commitments require a sense of urgency about energy and climate problems.

Competition is a variation of goal-setting, feedback and social support/pressure. It also introduces an element of ‘game’ or ‘fun’ to energy saving. Competitions link energy conservation to the emotional motives of pride and achievement. Competitions can serve to raise awareness and generate publicity.