Most of us understand that our electric appliances waste a lot of energy even when we’re not using them: TV, computers, microwaves. This is a problem for your wallet and the environment. As with smoking, drugs, greasy food, dental products and thousand other things that are considered bad, we seem to travel down the guilt path again and again and again. Some work, most don’t. When you travel through Europe, you see above cigarette boxes everywhere (Translation: Smoking can be deadly) and people continue to smoke while the warning is right in their face.
Guilt ads make us feel guilty. But they don’t change behavior effectively. And they also make us mad. With cigarettes, they make us mad at ourselves , our flaws, our weaknesses. Feeling guilty means becoming aware that we have violated a personal standard or behavior we really want to sustain. We have failed our ideals. And this anger interferes with the proposed behavior change. That’s why we light up a cigarette to relieve that anger tension. That’s why we open that chips bag. And don’t unplug our energy-sucking devices each time we leave the house for a prolonged time.
It seems, guilt is not the right emotion to change behavior in people. People are aware that smoking will harm their death. That it’s better to have a salad than a burger. But human beings are also rationalization machines: “This cigarette won’t kill me.” “What does it help the environment when I unplug my TV? I have other things to do.” Maybe the best solution is to have a way to make them constantly aware of specific facts without being annoying and treating people like babies.
And that’s why I was happy to find this designed innovation.
The idea behind the Power Aware Cord is to constantly make you aware of how much energy you’re using right then. This is done through a visual system of blinking or streaming lights that speed up or slow down depending on the amount of energy being used. When your TV is turned off, you will constantly be reminded that the device continues to waste energy. When leaving for a long trip, you won’t forgot to unplug each and every cord. The microwave clock might be convenient but the Power Aware Cord will remind you daily that you waste energy by having another useless clock in your kitchen. A very polite and beautiful reminder.
Design to change behavior by building constant awareness. We see the advent of other ambient devices to help us cope with information overload. How can this be applied to all the other negative behaviors we constantly indulge in? Overeating? Lack of exercise? Not flossing? Maybe the floss container can turn into a different color when not used daily? Body monitors that communicate the effect of that burger? Guilt hasn’t worked that well. We should give design a bigger stage to change behavior.