The Nosiest Way to Save on Energy Is Also Really Effective

Keeping up with the Joneses can often be a straight shot to frustration, but gauging your neighbors on some things isn't always a bad thing. New research shows that when it comes to being environmentally friendly, peer pressure (spoken or not) might wind up making the world a better place.

A just-released study from the University of Exeter Business School looks into how to motivate consumers to use less gas and energy. It turns out that rather than browbeating anyone, the best way to cut down on energy use is simply to make it desirable to do so. "People believe, rightly or wrongly, that a majority of those around them know what's right — and they are afraid that they might be told off if they behave in a different way," said coauthor Oliver Hauser in a press release.

The researchers looked at data from across the United States, including states that are stereotypically more or less concerned with environmental issues and energy consumption. The firm Opower sends customers energy bills that show their energy use in comparison to their neighbors. "In U.S. states where people thought that their neighbors cared a lot about energy conservation, Opower's information about neighbors' energy consumption is associated with greater energy savings," Hauser said. "In places where people thought that their neighbors did not care, it was associated with much lower energy savings."

We already know that one way to get yourself to curb your own spending is to examine it in the context of your friends' spending. Even if you're not a green-minded person in general, the evidence suggests that mindful energy use can help you save a solid handful of dough.