Leveraging internet scale technologies to help individuals to reduce energy consumption
The average American consumes 12.5 times the energy of the average citizen of Africa or Asia. With approximately 300 million citizens, that adds up to 2 billion metric tons of CO2, or just over a 3rd of the total waste produced across all sectors of the U.S. economy. Of the other two thirds, much is produced as a by product of the process of meeting the needs of individuals. For example, the transportation of food, production of goods, and so on all generates waste. As a result personal choice can have a huge impact on energy consumption and waste production. Thus, a solution to global warming depends on change at the individual level. The impact of individual choice can be seen in the increasing popularity of organic foods, hybrid cars, and other environmentally friendly consumption choices.
In the past year, with funding from Google, Intel, and the NSF, we built StepGreen.org, a website that induces changes in energy consumption through personalized information presented frequently and appropriately, through social influence processes (e.g., persuasion by peers) and by competitive interaction with other groups who are similarly trying to save energy (Mankoff et al., In Submission). StepGreen.org encourages and assists individuals in reducing their ecological footprints, or the amount of natural resources required to support them. Our development specifically targets frequently visited portal sites such as iGoogle and MySpace which can be easily configured by end users to display either RSS feeds (“news” feeds containing information generated by our software) or “badges” (custom-generated images showing a progress report, e.g. the example below).
StepGreen is an umbrella project that brings together faculty and research from several disciplines including behavioral science, environmental engineering, and computer science. Some of the projects we are working on include an exploration of how to structure our messaging to support a diverse body of users, a polar bear tamagotchi, and sensors that can automate the reporting of popular actions. To find out more about StepGreen.org, please email us at stepgreen [at] cs.cmu.edu
StepGreen is funded by Intel, NSF, and Google