Keeping up with the Joneses, In a Good Way

suburban neighborhood

People always talk about keeping up with the Joneses in a bad way, but a recent article in USA Today made me realize there are ways to keep up with the Joneses that are not only good for your pocketbook but good for the environment as well.

According to the article there are now over 1 million household in the United States who receive reports on the energy consumption of their neighbors. The utilities utilizing the reports have seen a a 2-3% decrease in energy consumption where the reports are being utilized. Some people are complaining about an invasion of privacy but the reports are generalized to give you an idea of what others around you are consuming.

Being a suburban dad it doesn’t surprise me that this reporting method actually results in the reduction of energy consumption and being “green.” By providing a report showing you are less frugal and consuming more than your neighbors people are not so subtly encouraged to reduce their own consumption.

Some of the utilities had even started using smily or frowny faces to show how certain households ranked amongst their neighbors. Other utilities were rating homes as average, above, or below average. It turns out people really didn’t like having a big fat frowny faces telling them they sucked at conserving energy, in both instances the utilities stopped “rating” consumption.

I personally think this is a pretty good way to make people not only more aware of how much energy they are using but to also encourage them to reduce their energy usage. If the guy who keeps his house at 72 in the winter and 68 in the summer saw what he was paying compared to his neighbors it would make a pretty big difference, I know it would to me.

Readers: Do you currently get one of these reports? Has it helped you to reduce your consumption?
What if we took this idea and expanded it into other areas like garbage and recycling?


1 moneyhoneysf February 8, 2010 at 5:58 pm

I have never heard of such a report. But it would be interesting to receive. I like how you assigned the title to this discussion.

2 Keith Morris February 8, 2010 at 6:00 pm

I understand the privacy argument, but I say as long as the report is having a positive effect and no one is getting hurt, that’s a good thing.

There was a similar blog post over on LifeTuner regarding priorities. Tom wrote about how 1,200 homeowner groups had bans on clotheslines for aesthetic reasons despite the huge energy savings brought by hanging your clothes out to dry.

3 Amber February 8, 2010 at 9:32 pm

I’ve never heard of such a thing, but I’d love to see a similar report for my neighborhood. I can see how people wouldn’t like having a big frowny face on their bill. The chart should be enough!

4 [email protected] February 16, 2010 at 1:35 am

I would love to get one of those reports. My wife and I have been trying to lower our electric and gas bill for several months and luckily warm weather lately has helped. So I’d like to see how we compare to our neighbors. They might have some tips. We also consider ourselves mildly green and actually wish that our city would offer recycling services. Unfortunately, they don’t.

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