Occupant behavior is arguably the No. 1 wild card when it comes to making sincere and significant changes in our resource-consuming future. An Energy Star-rated dishwasher is only as effective as a homeowner dedicated to running full loads at off-peak times; a CFL bulb’s energy efficiency is discounted if the lights are left on when nobody’s home.
That was one of the motivations behind iChoose, a creative card game initiated at Miron Construction, a commercial-industrial builder in Neehah, Wis., with 300-plus employees. Seeded with state money through a nearby nonprofit, the game engaged employees both individually and as teams to alter their daily energy and resource-use lifestyle behaviors toward more efficient, lasting habits.
Already dedicated to sustainable operations and building practices, and headquartered in a LEED-Gold building, Miron wanted to better involve its workforce, from C-level management down, to follow suit. “We were hoping to change behavior that would transfer from home to work and vice versa,” says Theresa Lehman, the company’s director of sustainable services.
The game consists of a quartet of cards that award varying point values based on actions taken by participating employees, from swapping out lightbulbs and watching less TV to driving slower and getting a home energy audit; workers were also allowed to make custom moves (called “innovation” cards) and submit photos and video of their resource-efficient activities for bonus points.
Thanks to top-down support and grassroots buy-in, the program engaged two-thirds of Miron’s employees through its six-month duration; 15% is considered excellent among utility-sponsored demand-use programs. The resulted savings were remarkable: an 18% reduction in their collective home electricity use (about 463 megawatts), 1.33 million pounds of carbon emissions, nearly 700,000 gallons of potable water, and an overall collective cost savings of about $127,000.
“Within a month of the game starting, you could see employees changing their habits at work because of the changes they were making at home,” says Lehman, such as turning off task lights and PCs at the end of the day, and reporting less stress from commuting at a measured pace. “We could not be happier with the results.”
As to whether the iChoose game is applicable or scalable to a smaller organization, Lehman says all you need is a champion—both at home and within the company. She also points out that iChoose was custom-made for Miron’s corporate culture, which was already very competitive. “The key is to find what works best for your company,” she says.
To learn more about Miron’s experience, including a video and the cool dashboard setup for the company by Cool Choices, its nonprofit partner in the effort, go to http://www.coolchoicesnetwork.org/miron-construction-co-inc.