Decoding the Doers: Three things to know about the people actually taking steps to reduce their home’s carbon footprint

by Apr 20, 2022

Shelton Stat of the Week

Replacing lightbulbs is indeed “the gateway drug” for energy efficiency (EE): It’s the activity most cited by Americans who claim to have improved just about everything to make their homes more efficient.
Energy Pulse®, 2021

Last week, I spoke at the National Home Performance Conference and Expo about exactly what the title of this post says. Here’s some context to set the stage:

  • Few of us connect the dots between our homes and our personal carbon footprints (only 7% of Americans name their homes, buildings or electricity production as a leading cause of climate change—and that percentage, statistically, has remained about the same for the last 15 years).
  • Over half of us admit we’ve done nothing to improve our home’s EE (which would, of course, reduce our electricity use and, in turn, our environmental impact).
  • Despite those sobering stats, 24% of Americans report that they have, indeed, changed most everything that could be changed to improve their home’s EE. And this number grew during the Covid lockdown! In 2018, 18% of us were Doers; in 2019, 19% of us were; and in late 2021, we make up 24%.

The purpose of this post is to reveal who these people are; what motivates them to make EE/sustainable improvements to their homes; and where you can find them, so you can laser-target them with your advertising and sales efforts.

Meet the Doers (we’re calling them Jim and Cheryl):

Jim and Cheryl are newly retired from good careers, have been married for a long time, and own their home. It’s not their first home, and it is likely to be less than 30 years old. This couple is confident when it comes to household maintenance and EE. They feel they know what to do to make a home efficient, and more than that, they’ve already taken action to improve their home in this way.


There are a few reasons they’ve been able to take this step more readily than others. First, they have the education and financial resources needed. Second, they have a strong sense of personal responsibility about the environment and how they impact it, for better or worse. Third, they have a higher willingness than most to invest in EE, and they’re willing to take a risk to get the outcome they want.


This willingness comes from their underlying belief that one’s home has a big impact on health. To Jim and Cheryl, EE isn’t really about saving money. It’s about maintaining their health and overall quality of life, so they can enjoy the years to come.

Specifically, Doers are:

  • Homeowners (83%)
  • Older (24% are age 65 or older)
  • Likely to be white (71%)
  • Married (54%)
  • Retired (23%)
  • Educated (13% have graduate-level degrees)
  • High earners (27% make $100k+)
  • Religious (34% Catholic, 28% Protestant)

They believe:

  • It’s important the U.S. begin sourcing energy from only clean, renewable resources (65%).
  • It’s important to have a personal lifestyle that mitigates GHG emissions (51%).
  • Energy conservation is very important in their daily purchase choices and activities (67%).


  • They are concerned about the impact that climate change will have on their children’s quality of life (56%).
  • They are significantly more likely to consider the following to be sustainable/eco-friendly: good indoor air quality, healthy home, comfort, and safety and security.


What are their drivers?

Health and well-being are huge drivers for them. They believe their homes have a direct impact on their health, and they’re more concerned about indoor air quality now than they were before the pandemic (and they were definitely concerned before). Comfort and security/safety are also important drivers. In fact, safety and security are seen as a component of making a home feel comfortable (as is good indoor air quality).

So, if you’re selling home performance upgrades or higher performing homes—and the equipment that contributes to higher performance—your messaging needs to zero in on comfort and well-being and, if possible, talk about how your approach also makes the home more secure. Security, efficiency and comfort are the top reasons this group spends money on their home.

You should also talk about how making a home healthier, more comfortable, more efficient and more secure also benefits the planet. The majority of this group cares about that.

What you should NOT talk about is saving money. That’s just not the driver for these folks. It will distract them from their real motivation. It’s also likely a promise that can’t be kept—the investment required will likely carry a long payback, and these folks are old enough to know it won’t pay off for them.

Where do you find them?

  • Run commercials on live or time-shifted TV. Home improvement and news are the center of the target.
  • Run ads and sponsored content on smartphone and tablet apps and websites, specifically. Exclude desktop for the best performance.
  • Run display, native and video ads programmatically that contextually target stories, content and sites focused on health, climate change/the environment, safety/home security, aging and EE.
  • From an organic search standpoint, create content on an ongoing basis about:
    • How to create a healthy home
    • How to reduce the impact of our homes on the environment
    • How EE improvements increase safety and security

Generally, all your messaging across paid and organic channels should be about creating a healthy living environment today and healing the planet for the future, that a healthy home is a safer home, and that an energy-efficient home is a better quality, more comfortable home. Follow this advice, and you’ll reach lots more Johns and Joans—and you’ll get them further down the path to achieving what they want for their home, what you want for your business, AND what we all need for the planet.

News of the Week
Cost is a key obstacle for many wanting to make energy efficient upgrades to homes. This Department of Energy press release details how the new infrastructure bill will provide funding for states, Tribes, and territories to promote energy efficient home upgrades.
Biden administration announces investments to make homes more energy efficient and lower costs for american families
U.S. Department of Energy

Cost is a key obstacle for many wanting to make energy efficient upgrades to homes. This Department of Energy press release details how the new infrastructure bill will provide funding for states, Tribes, and territories to promote energy efficient home upgrades.
Read more…

Cost is a key obstacle for many wanting to make energy efficient upgrades to homes. This Department of Energy press release details how the new infrastructure bill will provide funding for states, Tribes, and territories to promote energy efficient home upgrades.

Helping cities achieve just and equitable climate futures through residential energy retrofits
National Renewable Energy Laboratory

No home is in the same place when it comes to energy efficiency, especially across a city the size of Chicago. This National Renewable Energy Laboratory piece details how they have adapted their national analytical tools to a city-wide approach to assess and implement a strategy for improving the energy efficiency of homes across Chicago.
Read more…

Shoptivism: Why Consumers (& Job Seekers) Opt In & Out of Today’s Brands

Sustainability is now mainstream and it’s affecting purchase behavior.

Every year we ask Americans if they’ve ever intentionally purchased or not purchased a product or service based on the social or environmental record of the manufacturer. We then ask everyone who says “yes” to name the brand. Those who say “yes” and can give an example of a brand unaided? We call them shoptivists.

But who are these “shoptivists?”

Our latest report answers this question with three distinct consumer profiles, including details on their mental models, their shopping patterns, the messages that resonate, and where to find them.

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About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.

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