Filed under: Charlotte, community services, consumer behavior | Tags: Charlotte, charlotte mecklenberg, conservation, drought, good magazine, stages of change model, transtheoretical model of change, utilities, water, wicked problems
I recently had a conversation with Erin Culbert, the Environmental Outreach Coordinator at Charlotte Mecklenberg Utilities, and was reminded of the wicked problem that they face: encouraging consumers to use less water now that the drought’s been over for almost a year. Back in 2007, she and her team launched a successful conservation campaign to educate Charlotte’s residents and business customers, and the city was able to cut its consumption to work with the limited supply.
Some folks debate that clean drinking water is the next biggest problem facing the environment. (Good Magazine follows the argument here.) But without formal restrictions or special drought rates, can we sustain our good behavior without slipping into old habits?
This question makes me think about an interesting framework for supporting and maintaining behavioral change mentioned to me once by a colleague – The Transtheoretical Model of Change. It originally looked at the psychology of addictive behavior, but it might also have an application here. About.com offers an easy-to-read explanation in the context of New Year’s resolutions, offering suggestions as to what steps should be considered at each stage of change, including maintenance.
Water (and, to some degree, gas and electricity) companies wrangle with another wicked problem: how do they meet operational revenue requirements if they’re trying to convince consumers to use less of what they sell? Look for a later post on that one.