The Brighten-Up Caroline Pilot Program

Assessing the environmental attitudes of Caroline residents

Introduction

I worked with two other classmates from Cornell University to conduct a pilot of the Brighten-Up Caroline project that is scheduled to take place in the fall.

Brighten-up Caroline is a two-part, grant-funded program proposal to offer every Caroline household enough energy efficient LED lightbulbs to replace all or most of their current lightbulbs, and replace all of Caroline’s municipal streetlights with energy efficient LED street light bulbs.

We conducted the study in the Town of Caroline, New York, where we distributed modern LED bulbs for household illumination and assessed environmental attitudes of the town residents. .

We hypothesized that the installation of the energy efficient LED bulbs and demographic data such as religion, education, and income would be factors that would affect environmental attitudes of those in Caroline.

Methodology

The pilot program was conducted over a span of one week (Saturday, April 14th 2018 to Saturday, April 21st 2018) and consisted of five phases:

  1. Develop and administer surveys to assess environmental attitudes of the community
  2. Market and advertise the project through flyers
  3. Distribute the light bulbs
  4. Administer surveys to members of the community and conduct brief interviews
  5. Send out follow-up surveys via email after 7 days

Sample size: Each group was assigned four households, and only two of four households agreed to be interviewed after completing the surveys and receiving lightbulbs.

Surveys: One adult from each household was asked to fill out a survey in order to receive six LED lightbulbs. The environmental attitudes survey was designed based on previous surveys in Caroline energy efficiency programs. Each question could be rated on the New Ecological Paradigm (NEP) scale, a commonly used survey-based metric specifically designed to measure environmental concern.

Interview Questions:

1. Tell me about yourself.

2. What can you tell me about climate change?

3. What can you tell me about the energy used to power your home?

4. What do you know about LED bulbs?

5. Would you please relate your view on environmental ethic of the current administration?

6. What is the future of energy in America?

7. What do you know about the Lighten Up Caroline Project of 2008?

8. What does environmentalism mean to you?

9. Do you think your actions can affect the environment? If so, how?

Results

  1. We compiled the survey results and organized the responses into four groups:

none- 0 participants agreed

half- 2 participants agreed

majority/most- 3 participants agreed

all- 4 participants agreed

2. We were able to learn the following information:

The ages of participants ranged from 35–64 years old. Most were of white ethnicity (only one being of Asian / Pacific Islander identity). All four participants had varying religious affiliations, such as Mormon, Jewish, Naturalist and not religious. Half of the participants had some high school; remaining two were a 2-year college graduate and 4-year college graduate. Majority of the participants had a household annual gross income of that ranged from 50,000 to 74,999; only one earned less than 25,000.

All participants often turned off their lights and water when they are not in use. Majority of participants turn down the thermostat when leaving home. Half of the participants often use fans instead of the air conditioner; other half only sometimes use fans. Half of the participants raise the temperature setting a few degrees on the air conditioner and replace old windows with double or triple paned glass. All participants either often or sometimes buy one or more high efficiency appliance(s). Half of participants sometimes hire a qualified contractor to do an energy audit.

All participants want to pursue greater energy efficiency in their homes. Half of the participants already use LED bulbs while half either use incandescent bulbs or another type. Half of the participants view the cost of LEDs/alternatives as the single factor that prevents them from switching from incandescent to LED bulbs. Most participants feel neutral towards saving money on their utility bills as being more important to them than environmental concerns. Participants either feel neutral or disagree towards whether or not energy efficiency measures will reduce the comfort that they currently feel in their homes. Most participants use other energy efficient measures in their homes, examples of which include: “turning off items not in use” or “buying energy efficient appliances.”

Half of the participants rated their concern for the environment as a 4 on a 5-point scale (5 being the most concerned). Half of the participants rated their impact of their action have on the environment as a 4 on a 5-point scale (5 being the most impact); the other half rated as a 3. Half of the participants rated their interest in their homes being energy efficient as a 4 on a 5-point scale (5 being the most interest).

Only half of the participants had taken part in Lighten Up Caroline, a town-wide project in 2007 that gave a fluorescent light bulb to every household in Caroline and asked residents about their efforts on saving energy. All of these participants had positive feelings towards the event. Likewise, most participants think that town residents will respond positively and supportively to the Brighten Up Caroline program.

Discussion

In the examined sample, no significant variation in responses and NEP values with religion, education, and income was observed in the survey. A pairwise parametric comparisons of NEP values will be conducted after the four participants respond to the follow-up survey.

Recommendations

  1. A larger sample size of 10 or more households would be required in order to gather significant data about the environmental attitudes of Caroline residents.
  2. Because only half of the participants knew about the Lighten Up Caroline project that took place in 2007, it may be beneficial to advertise the Brighten Up Caroline program more vigorously. The age demographics of Caroline is very diverse, so using social media as a platform to advertise the program will help us reach out to a younger audience.

Here is an example of an Instagram post that could be used to raise awareness about the program’s launch date: