For three decades, many environmental practitioners have used the information campaign as their tool of choice. Yet most simple information appeals remain ineffective and are rooted in an outdated understanding of human behavior. In this article, we report on policy lessons from the Rewire program, an innovative energy conservation campaign at the University of Toronto that has grown to reach over 12,000 community members in Canada's largest university. Drawing from the Rewire experience, which evaluated the program by using a mix of psychological, electricity, and qualitative metrics, we suggest cost-effective methods for delivering policy interventions in a complex institutional setting and explore effective methods to generate widespread changes in energy behaviors through a community-based social marketing approach. Campaign designers should move away from single-tool policy interventions to employ a coordinated set of tools and techniques that address a wide range of determinants of human behavior. By training community-based coordinators, campaign designers should also move away from hierarchical policy implementation and toward decentralized deployment of modular and locally adaptive campaigns. For behavioral change to make a meaningful contribution to energy policy, we emphasize the need for more regular dialogue between social science research and the community of energy conservation practitioners.
Environmental Practice 15:147–155 (2013)