Emotionally Engaging Students to Change Behaviors and Conserve Resources: Unplug or the Polar Bear Gets it!

By Lorie Loeb and Giulia Siccardo.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Our goal is to establish an emotional connection between individual energy use and environmental impact in order to motivate people to change their behavior and conserve resources. TellEmotion’s unique method for displaying real-time energy use information combines research in the areas of behavioral sciences, sociology, information visualization, computer science and interaction design to motivate energy efficiency. In its simplest form, we begin with an animated polar bear. When energy use is low, the bear is happy; when it is high, the health and happiness of the bear is endangered.
In this paper we present recent findings from implementations in two school settings: Brooks School (a boarding high school in N. Andover, MA) and Dartmouth College (in Hanover, NH) during the spring term of 2009. Electricity reduction from the implementation of TellEmotion’s GreenLite System, averaged between 10 and 11% for a six-week period, with one dorm in each school reducing electricity use by as much as 34%. In both settings, students quickly “fell in love” with the bear, named her (“Bula” at Dartmouth and “Pasha” at Brooks), sent emails to their friends to turn things off to save the bear when energy use was high, and remained motivated and engaged over the length of our trials, with reductions even improving over time at Brooks. There were no other incentives in place to encourage students to reduce electricity use and no physical energy efficiency improvements made during the trial period.

Keywords: Information Visualization, Conservation, Colleges and Schools, Education, Social Norms, Sustainability, Environment, Interactive Animation, Social Networking, Game Design, Behavior

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp.19-34. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.161MB).

Lorie Loeb

Research Associate Professor, Computer Science/Digital Arts, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, USA

Lorie is a Research Associate Professor in the Computer Science department at Dartmouth College, the Faculty Leader of the GreenLite Dartmouth project, Director of the Digital Arts minor and President of TellEmotion, Inc, a real-time energy feedback start-up. An award-winning animator, Lorie brings her ability to make a story out of complex data to the GreenLite Dartmouth project and TellEmotion. Screenings of films Lorie has worked on include the Sundance Film Festival, the London Film Festival and the Museum of Modern Art, NY. Awards include two Emmy awards and the Cine Golden Eagle award.

Giulia Siccardo

Research Assistant, GreenLite Dartmouth, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, USA

Giulia Siccardo is an undergraduate at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH, USA, and a prospective Economics and Environmental Studies double major. She is a member of the GreenLite Dartmouth team. In addition to serving as the Head of the International Section for the Dartmouth Business Journal, she is an Associate Editor for the Dartmouth Law Journal and is a copy-editor for the Dartmouth college newspaper. She is an active member of Women in Science, Women in Business, Dartmouth Society of Investment and Economics (DSIE) and the Social Enterprise & Economic Development Society (SEEDS). She has been awarded a research grant from Dartmouth College to study consumer attitudes toward wind-power generation in California and Italy.

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