Research highlight

Scouting for energy savings

Nature Energy

July 12, 2016

Girl Scouts and their parents report increased energy-saving behaviours following an intervention aimed at the children, according to a study published online this week in Nature Energy. The study suggests that scaling up similar interventions aimed at Girl Scouts and other youth organizations could help to increase energy savings for many families in the US.

Education and behaviour programmes are increasingly seen as important for raising awareness of energy-saving practices among young people. Studies also indicate that children have an important influence on their parents’ attitudes and behaviours.

Hilary Boudet and colleagues randomly assigned 30 Junior (mean age 9.6 years) Girl Scout troops in northern California to one of two interventions designed to promote energy-saving behaviours either at home or in food and transport decisions. The authors found that the children’s self-reported energy-saving behaviours - such as turning off power strips at night and washing clothes in cold water - increased for more than seven months after the trial. They show the interventions also had an effect on the parents’ self-reported residential energy-saving behaviours for more than eight months. The authors estimate that these behaviour changes represent an annual household energy savings of approximately 3-5% immediately following the intervention and 1-3% at follow-up.

Finally, they note that food and transportation energy-saving behaviours did not increase at follow-up, possibly because these behaviours are constrained by geographic, cultural and economic factors - such as availability of public transport and family eating practices - and may be difficult to change through brief behavioural interventions alone.

doi: 10.1038/nenergy.2016.91

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