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Conservation without Prices: social comparisons to promote energy and water conservation

Another presentation in the 2012 EfD-CA Seminar Series at CATIE.

Policymakers often rely on non-pecuniary, information-based programs to achieve social objectives. We review the evidence on the effectiveness of such programs in the context of energy and water conservation. Recently, a series of randomized social experiments have demonstrated that social norm-based messages can induce households to conserve energy and water. We explore what is known about the effects of such messages in high-income and middle-income nations, including the persistence of effects, heterogeneous responses to the messages, and the mechanisms through which the messages affect conservation behaviors. We conclude by contrasting price-based conservation approaches to non-price, social norm-based approaches and outline open questions for future research. Paul Ferraro is Fulbright Scholar (2011-2012) and is working at EfD-CA as guest researcher from January until June, 2012 on developing ideas and proposals for research in ad-aptation to climate change.