Jen's MEM Journey

Walking the Talk
by Jennifer Weiss -- October 7th, 2010

Up until about two months ago when I started school, I was what one might call a “soccer mom.” Yes, my kids really do play soccer and yes, I really do own a gas-guzzling SUV. But, wait! Don’t run me out of the Nic School just yet!!

I like to think that I am environmentally friendly – I recycle everything that I can, have switched all my light bulbs to CFLs, invested in a rain barrel, and I use a programmable thermometer to keep my family hot in the summer and cold in the winter (yes, this is written correctly – just ask my frozen children).

So, why do I still feel so restless about what I am doing to reduce my own carbon footprint?  Is it because I haven’t added solar panels to my house?  Maybe it’s because I haven’t purchased a Prius to cram my family into on weekend trips?  Because I still haven’t set up that compost pile that I’ve been talking about for years?

Earlier this week, I attended a Leading EDGE seminar on Energy Efficiency at Fuqua Business School and learned that as energy efficient as we think we are, we still have a long, long way go. Which makes me wonder – why is it so easy to talk the talk, but so much harder to walk the walk?

Energy efficiency is touted as the low hanging fruit in the sustainable energy world, so it must be easy to do, right?  Professor Rick Larrick from Fuqua described the many reasons consumers give to justify why we don’t fully embrace energy efficiency, and I am not ashamed to say that I may have fallen victim to some of them:

“I can’t invest in solar panels for my house until I get my kids through college …” (Loss aversion – pain of out of pocket expenses to acquire new technology)

“I’d gain much more personal benefits from investing in a new HDTV then in upgrading my HVAC.”  (Psychological discounting of value)

“I can’t even get my kids to pick up their toys when they leave a room, much less turn off the lights!” (Energy efficiency improvements are “invisible” and hard to understand)

And my personal favorite:

“My neighbor’s SUV gets worse gas mileage than mine …” (The “Sucker Effect” – no one else is doing it, why should I?)

Oil spills, climate change, water rationing and rising gas and electricity prices are a shock to the system and make us think momentarily about changing our ways, but it’s going to take a lot of education and small changes to help Americans make all the energy efficiency improvements that we have the capability to make.

But, I’ve already started.  I now drive my husband’s Honda Civic to Durham each day instead of my SUV.  I’ve only just started to talk the talk.  It’s never too late to start walking the walk …

©2016 Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University | Box 90328 | Durham, NC 27708
how to contact us > | login to the site > | site disclaimers >

footer nav stuff