Early this month several Cool Choices staff participated in the Behavior, Energy and Climate Change (BECC) conference. This was the fifth annual BECC conference, which is organized collaboratively by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), California Institute for Energy and Environment (CIEE), University of California, and the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center (PEEC), Stanford University.
I was at the first BECC in 2007 and it is really exciting to see how the conference has evolved over five short years. In 2007, attendance was much smaller and many sessions drew upon research from other disciplines. We listened to experts from public health, for example, talk about the lessons they had learned trying to change behaviors. This year, by contrast, there were more than 650 attendees that participated in six conference tracks that addressed a myriad of behavioral issues associated with energy efficiency and climate change. There were sessions on transportation-related behaviors as well as household and commercial energy use and lots of discussions about messaging and feedback strategies. The speakers included behavioral economists, anthropologists, and biologists as well as fresh-from-the-trenches practitioners who aim to influence behaviors in their community on a daily basis.
Indeed, that is part of what makes BECC so fascinating: academics are mixed in with practitioners. A breakfast conversation might involve a professor who teaches courses on sustainability, an official from a local unit of government and someone from a nonprofit sitting alongside the usual energy efficiency implementation and evaluation personnel from private firms and utilities.
Whereas many conferences consist of the usual suspects telling you what you already know, BECC has the ability to surprise. Every day I left at least one session completely dazzled by an innovative approach or compelling research project that felt entirely new to me. The conference content nourished me—I got ideas and I got a healthy dose of optimism about all the terrific stuff that is evolving out there. Yes, the task ahead of us is very large, but after BECC I’m reminded that there are some amazing people joining us on this journey to environmental sustainability. Together we can get there.