I was disheartened to read a story in the New York Times this Sunday that revealed that several Department of Energy facilities have not installed programmable thermostats — a failure that is preventing them from saving about $11.5 million annually. Those would be our taxpayer dollars, by the way.
Hence the “Oh sigh” part of my headline.
One of the basic rules for life we all learned somewhere in our adolescence — don’t ask somebody else to do something you’re not willing to do yourself — most definitely applies here and for any organization with a green or energy efficient marketing campaign. In this case, Secretary Chu and President Obama have touted the benefits of simple energy saving measures, like using CFL’s and installing programmable thermostats, and they now look like hypocrites. The end result — beyond embarrassment — is that it gives mainstream consumers who are not exactly dying to rush out and be energy efficient one more excuse to not take action. (To back up that statement: Our 2008 Energy Pulse study showed that likelihood to participate in a variety of energy efficient measures, tested on a scale of 1-5, hovered in the 3-3.5 range.)
Only 7% of the population currently believes companies adopt environmentally friendly practices because their Directors actually care about the environment. So skepticism is about as high as it gets. That’s why walking the talk and transparency are the business advice of the day.
The moral of the story is: don’t follow the DOE’s lead on this. If you’re a utility promoting energy efficiency, don’t leave your headquarters building lit up like a Christmas tree at night. If you’re a consumer packaged goods maker marketing a green product(s), don’t haul a bunch of manufacturing and office waste to the landfill every day. And if you’re an ad agency specializing in motivating mainstream consumers to make sustainable choices, build your office space to LEED standards and hold an inter-office contest with a $1,000 prize to inspire your staff to think even harder about how they can walk the talk. In short, don’t ask your customers to do something you’re not doing yourself.