Changing Perspectives & Habits

by Kathy Kuntz, Executive Director

While Cool Choices program staff keeps busy implementing new and ongoing games in partnership with multiple groups, the end of games is always a little sad. After weeks of inspired photos and heartwarming stories you get to know a group better, and I miss daily updates on their sustainability efforts. At the same time when games end our evaluation partner—the Energy Center of Wisconsin—steps in and we learn fascinating stuff about game trends and player perceptions. (Geek alert: I confess that I find the Energy Center’s graphs almost as compelling as player photos!) The Energy Center’s work provides a way of connecting photos and stories to sustainable actions and results – and a new appreciation of how small sustainable actions by individual players accumulate to yield big sustainable results.

Most recently the Energy Center issued a memo summarizing player feedback from our game with Boardman & Clark LLP, one of Madison’s largest law firms. I found the player perceptions of the changes in their practices very encouraging. In the post-game survey the Center asks players how much effort they put into saving energy, water and gasoline prior to the game and then after the game. As illustrated in the graph below, respondents rated their post-game conservation efforts much higher than before the game –with 9 in 10 respondents rating post-game energy conservation efforts as a 4 or 5 on a 5-point scale, 8 of 10 rating their water conservation habits as high, and more than 6 in 10 giving their efforts to save gasoline similar marks.

Boardman and Clark Self-reported pre- and post-game conservation efforts chart

Boardman and Clark Self-reported pre- and post-game conservation efforts chart

These results are player perceptions, of course, not independently verified savings. But we’re learning that people who play the Cool Choices game are pretty accurate with us in terms of what they have accomplished, perhaps in part because they know we will verify results later. (And where the Energy Center has verified savings the results are encouraging—check out their findings in our Miron game!)

Perceptions matter. Prior to a game many players tell us they already do everything they can to save energy –most Americans feel confident that waste is only other people’s problem. After the game they tend to be more self-aware and view pre-game habits more critically. The Cool Choices game changes perspectives along with habits.

Key to changing perspectives is getting people to do more without making them feel bad about their past practices. Instead of shaming players about past inaction, we encourage them to feel good about doing sustainable practices – old and new. It works! When it comes to adopting sustainable practices 71% of players at Boardman & Clark said they were proud of changes they made as part of the game. As more individuals believe they are part of the solution their accumulated sustainable efforts become a bigger part of the solution. Small changes really do add up. We’re proud of how Cool Choices game encourages people every day to add their efforts to create a more sustainable way of life!

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