CIET trainer, Ed Rubinstein shares ideas he's found useful in raising awareness and engaging people in energy management.


Quick...when I say “energy awareness program”, what do you think? Posters? Presentations? Those little “please turn off when you leave” notes stuck by light switches?


If you did, you’re not alone...I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people equate energy awareness with a one-way flow of information. And while posters, presentations and stickers may play a role in an awareness program, if they’re playing the lead role, chances are they’re not worth, quite frankly, the energy (and money) you’re putting into them.


Unfortunately, there are no standard templates or quick fixes when it comes to energy awareness, and a good program will take time -- there's no way around it. But there are a few general ideas that I have found useful in raising awareness and engaging people around energy management.


  • Energy management can be important for different people for different reasons. For some, it may be about reducing costs and greenhouse gas emissions, but for others it may not be. You need to take the time to find common ground and then build upon it. Every time you’re asking someone to support your energy initiative, you need to be asking yourself, “What’s in it for them”?
  • Think more broadly about your audience for engagement. Think beyond those whose main energy influence is to turn off a couple of lights and computers. Who are the energy gatekeepers in your organisation? Who controls funding? Who sets policy? Who’s responsible for communications? Take the time to meet and learn about them.
  • Speaking of communications, I can’t stress the importance of having two-way communication, by design, as part of your awareness program. Nobody wants to be told what to do, and by not giving people a chance to respond, you’re cutting off valuable feedback both on your awareness program, but also on potential energy opportunities that you might not be aware of. Instead of thinking communications, think behaviour change – you can find a lot of good resources in the energy world, but also from work done in public health and behavioural economics.
  • Energy management is for people, and for better or for worse, people are unreliable and not always logical in their actions and decision making. When thinking of energy awareness, also think of the energy systems we’re asking people to interact with, and how they may be better designed to solicit the behaviour we’re hoping for. A good starting point for exploring this idea is the book Nudge, which was popular a few years ago.
  • Use every step in projects you’re working on as an avenue for engagement. Developing a project budget and business case? Reach out to your finance department. Pulling together specifications for a fan motor replacement? Great opportunity to reach out to your Building Operators, their Supervisors as well as the people who will be impacted (and hopefully benefit) from having their fan replaced.


All of these ideas (as well as the many we don’t have space to write about here) are connected. The way you apply them will be specific to you, your organisation, and the people you’re dealing with. It will take time and effort, but a good awareness program will pay off in the long run with an energy management program that’s more sustainable and ultimately, in my experience, more successful than one that does not incorporate awareness.


About Ed Rubinstein


Ed Rubinstein is a trainer in CIET’s Certified Energy Manager (CEM) course. Ed is the Energy & Environment Manager at the University Health Network. He’s been leading the hospital’s many environment programs since 1999 and has helped UHN become a leader in greening health care. Both UHN and Ed’s leadership in the field of “greening health care” have been recognized by several awards, including from the Ontario Hospital Association, Natural Resources Canada, Practice Greenhealth and the Canadian Council of Ministers for the Environment.


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