When we talk about greenhouse gas emissions, quite often it’s power plants and heavy machinery that first come to our mind. However, there are more ways to reduce our impact on climate than just fighting coal.
Our homes contain a lot of devices and appliances which significantly contribute to emissions. According to research, of the total energy comsumption in a household, lighting takes up to five percent of energy; another 10 percent are used by domestic appliances, 15 percent goes for cooking and 70 percent are consumed by heating needs.
If we switch to modern appliances, which are designed to consume a lot less energy than their predecessors, we can begin to address some of this issue. In fact, using high-class energy efficient appliances (A++ class), the energy saving might reach as high as 30 percent within a housing sector. Scaling that up across a country, the differences will add up to huge gains.
That being said, energy-saving devices are often pricier, which not all of us can afford. Not even the pro-environmental consumer may be able to afford purchasing the latest models of refrigerators, washing machines or air conditioners. So how do we incentivize such behavioral changes?
That’s why here at UNDP Kazakhstan, we decided to offer discounts to people wishing to buy energy-efficient appliances. After some research and negotiations, we partnered with retailers and recycling companies and launched a special discount campaign to lighten the burden on the environmentally conscious consumer.
Our research from 2018 showed us two things. First, while respondents are aware of the term “energy saving,” they don’t quite grasp the idea of “energy efficient.” Our data shows that people had a good understanding of energy efficiency tended to be people with higher incomes or technical education. Second, when making purchasing decisions, the average consumer focuses on the price first, instead of efficiency.
With these lessons in mind, we set our primary goal: to raise awareness about the benefits of energy efficiency.
We offered people discount coupons which they could use to buy an energy efficient fridge. To get such a coupon, a person would have to dispose of any broken or spent-out appliance (be it a microwave, a fridge, or even a kettle). The discount was about US $50 per fridge.
We also made certificates available at large retail stores, where many people make their final decisions. Those who got discounts at a store received contacts of a utilization company that could take away their old appliances free of charge.
In this way, we addressed important environmental issues: delivering financial support for the purchase of new and efficient appliances, as well as proper collection of old appliances for recycling.
The discount was not our end goal – rather it was a device to get people’s attention. Once we had their focus, we then tried to direct it towards energy efficiency, its benefits and how to read labels properly – to increase the number of conscious consumers in our society.