Behaviour change and office energy use

Behaviour change and office energy use – top tips from an experiment by Carbon Smart

Carbon Smart conducted a behaviour change field experiment from July to August 2013 in collaboration with Imperial College London involving over 1,100 participants across four London office buildings. It was a controlled experiment: the measures implemented on one or more floors in a given building were compared to one or more ‘control’ floors in the same building that operated normally, with no behaviour change measures were implemented.

The objective was to increase the proportion of monitors turned off when people left the office at the end of the day. Although a relatively small source of energy use, monitors were a common, visible source of wasted energy use across all participating buildings and enabled inter-building and inter-organisational comparisons to be conducted in experimental analyses.

One of two behavioural interventions were used at each site: one provided social comparison feedback cards to employees (see pics below), the other involved a public commitment flag being put on each monitor.

Both strategies were paired with a reminder placed next to the monitor’s power button saying ‘The power is still on until you push the button’

Before we started, about 40% of people left their monitors on. Our strategies reduced this to 20% across the board, saving about £30 and 100 kgCO2 per year per 100 monitors while control floors experienced an increase of 2.4% .

behaviour change

Key findings from our experiment:


1.       It doesn’t matter if it’s a public or private sector organisation

There was no significant difference in results across private, public, and university buildings

2.       The temperature of your desk is not critical

It even worked where there was hot-desking!

3.       Install reminders near the points of action

Use snappy little reminders to complement approaches that make social norms more visible

4.       There is no need for a ‘why’

We didn’t try and change attitudes or beliefs, just behaviour.

For inquiries about our behaviour change experiment, please contact Jack Shepherd at 0207 940 0013 or email 

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