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8 Lessons From Twitter Energy Monitoring

by Marguerite Manteau-Rao

Two weeks and 77 tweets later, the Twitter “green_watch” project has come to an end. Lots of insights, problems raised, and beginning of answers.

The goal was to use Twitter as a real time, online reporting tool for my personal energy consumption, round the clock.


Lessons learned from the project:

#1. The more engaged we are in flow-like activities, the less our propensity to consume energy and buy things that depend on energy for their production:

Adults and children should be encouraged to develop capacity to engage in activities that are deeply satisfying by themselves, eg, hobbies, work, physical activities. Early education could play an important role in that respect. Children’s creativity should be encouraged more, including the ability to do much with little.

#2. Energy vampires, although well known by now, continue to do their silent work of sucking up electricity unnecessarily, and with no added benefit for the end user.

Smart meters, power strips, are available. But how many people use them? How many know much they could save? The effort required is still too great for the mainstream.

#3. There are no readily available monitoring system to alert us when we are consuming energy, and how much, and in ways that talk to us.

I understand $, comparisons, savings, cute pictures, and sensorial signals such as bells and changing colors. Forget kWhs, tables, and graphs. Lots of work is currently being done in this field. But it still has a long way to go, and is still in pilot stage.

#4. The switch from car to alternative low energy mode of transportation requires that people experience first hand the superior benefits of those alternatives.

From riding my bike a few times, I realized that biking was better for my health, took no more time than driving, avoided traffic jam and parking problem, was a lot of fun, and cost me nothing. Same with taking the train, and realizing that I could use time riding productively, working on my laptop, or reading, plus I did not have to find parking. This shows the importance of jumpstarting the conversion process by eliminating barriers to trial of other mode of transportations.

#5. We are addicted to convenience, even more than to things. Rather than fighting that addiction, we should focus on sustainable alternatives that are as, if not more convenient that current solutions.

The bike example also applies here. If we can convince people that biking is as fast, and less hassle than driving, at least for short distances, then we will have an easier sell. Trying to go against that cultural reality of our Western world, is likely to be met with great resistance, and be counterproductive.

#6. There is a huge fuzzy area in collective energy consumption, and indirect energy use. How does one establish the share between individual and institutional responsibility?

At home, and in my car, I am in charge. What happens when I consume electricity from lighting on the freeways, or university campuses? Or when I buy processed food, without any knowledge of the energy that went into producing it? Information becomes critical, as in food carbon labeling, or public display of energy consumption, for let’s say a public pool. Although not a mainstream reality yet, such information would empower individuals to make informed decisions about their use of such collective services.

#7. Green-ness is a privilege of the rich. People with money to spend on home solar installations, hybrid cars, and carbon offsets for air traveling, can lower their carbon footprint, a lot more easily than their less well-off fellow citizens.

That is a fact. In the absence of significant government subsidies and investments, the average person needs to work a lot harder to decrease his or her carbon footprint

#8. Energy efficiency and conservation, the two low hanging fruits of climate change remediation, have not yet entered the public consciousness.

I am dreaming smart homes, smart transportation, smart consumption. No fancy new technologies required. Only a shift in mindsets, and the pulling together of existing technologies.

Any ideas how to make this happen? I am asking you . . .

Marguerite Manteau-Rao is a green blogger and marketing consultant on sustainability and social media. Her green blog, La Marguerite, focuses on behavioral solutions to climate change and other global sustainability issues. Marguerite is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post. Since Sarah Palin’s VP nomination, she has also been impersonating Ms. Palin at What’s Sarah Thinking? blog

Energy Monitoring With Twitter

by Marguerite Manteau-Rao

This week, I started a new experiment, this time using Twitter to monitor my energy consumption 24/7. A Web 2.0 version of my earlier Daily Footprint Project, when I kept a diary of all my carbon footprinting activities for 30 days. The project is called “green_watch” and you can follow it on Twitter. I was inspired by IBM researcher Andy Stanford-Clark‘s recent home energy monitoring project, “andy_home”, also on Twitter, and also by my ongoing fiddlings with Twitter. I am convinced Twitter is an underused social networking tool, that offers tremendous potential for business applications. Here is what “green_watch” looks like:

At the end of each day, I take a look and report on key insights at La Marguerite, my green blog. So far, here is what I learned:

“Solar is Still a Privilege of the Rich”

“Energy Monitoring is Everybody’s Business”

Next week, I will continue to report on my “green_watch” findings. In the mean time, I urge you to start your own “green_watch”. Who knows, you may discover your next business idea in the process?

Marguerite Manteau-Rao
is a green blogger and marketing consultant on sustainability and social media issues. Her blog, La Marguerite, focuses on behavioral solutions to climate change and other global sustainability issues. She also blogs for The Huffington Post.

Are Clean Tech and Sustainability Types Afraid of Web 2.0?

by Marguerite Manteau-Rao

Social media and sustainability may align in at least ten ways, according to Max Gladwell, but they certainly do not intersect very much in actuality.

Proof is this quick search I conducted on Twitter, of last 24 hours of business conversations on “sustainability”, “clean tech” and “green”. Here are the results. I only kept original conversations, not automatic tweets:

19 tweets in 24 hours, that’s not very many. Of course, not all conversations on clean tech and sustainability got captured with my basic search. Still, it gives an indication of how little the green business folks are using social media. My experience of the green business people around me, is that they tend to be very engaged in real life networking, and not so much in virtual networks. This has a lot to do with clean tech and sustainability types’ lesser familiarity with Web 2.0 tools.

Marguerite Manteau-Rao is a green blogger and marketing consultant on sustainability and social media issues. Her blog, La Marguerite, focuses on behavioral solutions to climate change and other global sustainability issues. She also writes for the Huffington Post.