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The latest news from JouleBug, the easy way to make your everyday habits more sustainable, at home, work, and play. Discover how you and your friends can use resources—without using them up, with this newly designed app.

Behind the Scenes of a Challenge

If you’re reading this, you’re likely already aware that JouleBug is a mobile app and platform that encourages and rewards sustainable behavior.  In its simplest form, JouleBug hosts contests to see who is the most sustainable – we call these Challenges. At a higher level, these Challenges are designed to get users started on their sustainable journeys, moving them towards ongoing behavior change.

In a JouleBug Challenge, users earn points by self-reporting on an almost countless number of sustainable actions in the app.  Extra points incentivize social actions like sharing photos and captions with their actions.

If you’re skeptical of how exciting a challenge that revolves around making your habits eco-friendlier could be, you’re not alone. But JouleBug is fun. And we have the data to prove it.

Almost every Challenge’s analytics looks similar. The Challenge starts with a surge of high activity. Things settle down in the middle, which often falls over a weekend. The final days see another peak of energy with users and teams striving to pull out the win.  Those out of prize contention may not be logging as frequently, but the app still provides entertainment and outlets for creativity.

Following other’s activity, getting ideas for your own habits, and taking “insta-worthy” photos are all a part of the process.  Challenge participants average logging over 6 actions a day in a Challenge, and many include a photo, caption, or interaction with another player.  JouleBug proves changing your habits can be a fun and engaging experience.

When the Challenge is over, the sponsor has the option to recognize winning teams or users and award prizes. Most often, these incentives are directed towards the top scorers, but sometimes are awarded with raffles, or by judges, such as the most creative photo submissions.

Participants also receive an email about the environmental impact of the Challenge because, as we like to say, “the real winner here was the planet.” The email highlights the stats for the amounts of carbon, water, and waste saved by the participant group, and illustrates the savings with photos and comparisons to help explain what those measurements really mean.  It is then that people understand that lots of very little actions, done frequently by a group, actually have a meaningful and understandable positive impact on our planet.

While many actions in JouleBug have very small impact, the significance of the social aspects cannot be ignored.  JouleBug actions contribute to Social Norming, a critical component in the complex fabric of behavior change.

The more we see reusable coffee mugs brought into our local coffee shops, reusable water bottles being refilled at the gym, and colorful fabric shopping bags on everyone’s shoulder, the more the general concept of reusing as much as possible becomes normal.  We are working to get these mindsets started in as many people as possible, using fun and playful incentives to get JouleBug users to share with others. This is why we place such emphasis on sharing with a photo or comment. Our app is working all the time to amplify and accelerate positive behavior change

A JouleBug Challenge creates a welcome environment for users to show off sustainable habits, not unlike other social media platforms we all use to make our lives look glamorous to our “friends.” The combination of incentives and peer pressure can be extremely effective in changing our behaviors.  The JouleBug voice is always uplifting and encouraging, avoiding the guilt that often accompanied the environmental movement in the past.  The often-frenetic energy of Challenges cannot continue on forever, but we do not believe that everyone’s behavior reverts to where it was before the Challenge. Through steady changes and subsequent Challenges, we believe the behavior change is impactful.

Next up, I’ll dive into how utilities use another aspect of our game’s behavior change concepts, choice architecture, to lower peak demand. Imagine extra points for turning down your thermostat or grilling outside during the hottest parts of the day.  Small actions done by a large number of people add up, and even more so if triggered at the perfect time.

Earth Day 2017

Earth Day 2017

Happy Earth Day JouleBug Nation! We obviously love this holiday for what it stands for but we also have some exciting things going on that we’re excited to share with you all!

We hope you had the chance to participate in our first-ever Goals based Challenge this week. Goals are going to bring a new, collaborative feel to our Challenges and we’re excited for you to experience them.

As a cherry on top of our amazing week, we wanted to say thanks to the Apple Store and Google Play for both featuring us for Earth Week and Sustainability content.

It’s been an exciting week, thanks for sharing it with us! Keep up the good work!


Image © Kalem Emsley

Earth Week 2016

Earth Week 2016

Earth Day, first celebrated in 1970 as a way to raise awareness around the need to protect the planet’s natural resources for future generations, continues to inspire new commitments to environmental sustainability each year on April 22.

Influenced by Vietnam-era protests, Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson chose that specific day to maximize the number of students who could be reached on university campuses in a “national teach-in on the environment.” It worked. More than 20 million people across the United States participated, providing a broad base to support legislation such as the Clean Air Act (updated in 1970) and the Endangered Species Act (1973).

Denis Hayes, a Harvard grad student, helped coordinate the first Earth Day. For its 20th anniversary he expanded its reach to the globe, organizing 200 million people in 140 countries to take a stand.

Over the years Earth Day has expanded into Earth Week, and then into Earth Month. Each April thousands of organizations encourage more than a billion people to consider how their personal actions, amid larger policy decisions, make a difference in the world around them.

Earth Day’s emphasis on educating individuals about tangible actions they can take provides a short-term “boost” for environmental protection. By sharing knowledge, developing skills, changing attitudes, and supporting the intention to act, Earth Day can encourage behavior change such as shifting lifestyle habits, participating in restoration activities or advocating for environmental policy changes.

The commitment to changing a behavior, even for a day or a week, can have lasting effects. It’s somewhat like opening Pandora’s box; after discovering how even small decisions and actions affect the larger world, it’s difficult to “unknow” and ignore those impacts. For these reasons, participating in a JouleBug challenge for even a short time has the potential to encourage long-term behavior change.

Initially focused on water and air pollution, a National Geographic post explains that current Earth Day events and actions around the world can now be broadly categorized into 10 core issues:

– Advocacy
– Climate Change
– Conservation & Biology
– Education
– Energy
– Food & Agriculture
– Green Economy
– Green Schools
– Recycling & Waste Reduction
– Sustainable Development

JouleBug is a valuable – and fun! – tool to understand and act on many of these issues, blended in with a competitive element to encourage even greater participation. It’s also an excellent platform for sustainable storytelling. Through comments and sharing photos of “sustainability in action” Joulebug participants can help shape behavior norms in an ever-increasing spiral upwards toward protecting the one and only planet we have.

Check out JouleBug’s special Earth Week pins to participate!

Image © NASA

Fix a Leak Week

Fix a Leak Week

Did you know that household leaks waste over 1 trillion gallons of water a year in the U.S. alone? Tightening up those faucets, shower-heads, and toilets can make a big difference in your water and water bill savings!

Save water and your wallet by sealing those leaks!

Check out these JouleBug pins designed to help you preserve and conserve!

Start your savings!



photo © JouleBug

Eat this, not that. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Eat this, not that. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Fat and high-cholesterol foods? No problem. Alcohol and coffee are fine too, but skip the spoonful of sugar. And that salt shaker? Put it down.

Keeping up with the latest nutrition recommendations can be as daunting as keeping up with the Joneses. Both could drive you nuts, potentially damaging your health and your wallet.

Thankfully the latest version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released earlier this year by the U.S. Agriculture and Health and Human Services Departments, seems to be the voice of sanity. Its newest advice is an exercise in moderation, explained in a recent New York Times article as emphasizing the “need to focus on a health-promoting eating pattern ‘across the life span.'”

The experts are now less worried about the high-cholesterol eggs and shrimp that might land on your plate and more concerned about what kinds of fat you’re eating. Avocados, nuts, olive oil and fatty fish are packed with unsaturated fats, the kind linked with better health and longevity and part of the celebrated Mediterranean diet. Fats can also make you feel full longer, a key feature in any weight loss effort.

Saturated fat, salt and added sugars are the big three no-nos according to the report. Refined carbohydrates – such as white bread, white rice, cakes, cookies and that yummy breakroom doughnut – are also on the “not that” list. Stripped of their fiber and nutrients, they are empty calories not much better than eating that spoonful of sugar.

While the guidelines stop short of calling out smaller meat portions, they do lower the recommended protein amounts for teenage boys and men. Processed meats, loaded with both saturated fat and salt, have been linked to increased risk of cancer and heart disease.

Waking up to the smell of sausage might not be the best idea, but the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee? Bring it on. It’s the first time the guidelines admit that a couple of cups a day are acceptable. The same stands for alcohol as well. Moderation is key: men can have up to two drinks, and women one, a day.

So what should you eat?

Whole Grains

According to the Times, “diets with a rich variety of vegetables and fruits; whole grains; fat-free or low-fat dairy foods like milk, yogurt and cheese, and protein foods that contain little or no saturated fat, including eggs, shellfish, lean meat and poultry, beans and peas, soy products, nuts and seeds.”

Lowfat Milk
Lean Protein
Plant Protein

For specific ranges of recommended sodium amounts and other key measures, including limiting added sugars to 10% of daily calories, read the article in its entirety or the guidelines themselves.

That said, for the first time the guidelines “advise Americans to focus less on individual nutrients and to think more broadly about overall patterns of healthy eating.”

Bottom line, it’s about taking in essential nutrients through many different kinds of whole foods, maintaining a healthy weight and reducing your risk for chronic diseases.

Cheers to your health!

Photo © iStock

Sustainability at the Superbowl

We are very excited that a JouleBug Pin got its first Super Bowl ad!

Saving water is important whether your state is in a drought or not! And conserving can be so simple! Just keeping the faucet off while brushing your teeth can save up to 4 gallons of water!

Check out Colgate’s #EveryDropCounts campaign ad here:

And don’t forget to Buzz Brush With Greatness when you conserve water while brushing your teeth!

Brush With Greatness

Brush With Greatness

How to Save 250 Billion kWh a Year, without Solving Nuclear Fusion

How to Save 250 Billion kWh a Year, without Solving Nuclear Fusion

Clean energy ideas and innovation hit peak excitement last year. In its “8 Tech Breakthroughs of 2015,” National Geographic profiled high-tech wonders such as autonomous cars, tall wind, tidal, fusion, fuel cells, home automation and more, enough to tantalize even the most discerning science fiction fan with the promise of what’s next in powering our world.

But the story actually saved the best for last. The biggest breakthrough? Decidedly low-tech. The last two paragraphs claimed the biggest news is the potential to reduce 20% of a home’s energy use through no- or low-cost behavioral changes, no smart gear required.

There is an inexpensive technology in our homes right now that can conserve energy immediately. It’s called a light switch, says a recent Carnegie Mellon report. Convincing a teenager to use that light switch every time they leave a room, however, is a social science challenge, not a technology challenge.

Flip Off

Flip Off

The U.S. Energy Information Administration states the 2014 average residential use was 911 kWh each month. According to the U.S. Census there are 115,610,216 households in the nation; a 20% savings translates into 252 billion kWh of energy saved. This is more than enough for every home in California and Florida!

Sounds great on paper, but have you tried changing a teenager’s behavior lately? It’s a daunting mission.

That’s exactly why community partners sponsored several JouleBug Challenges in schools around the country last year; competition and sharing are great ways to captivate a reluctant teenager.

When participants see the impact of their collective actions at the conclusion of a Joulebug Challenge, many are “blown away” with the results.

More often than not the final outcome is those same reluctant teenagers teaching their parents a thing or two about how to use resources more wisely.

Powered by the right tool, saving energy works, and can actually be fun.

Perhaps best of all, as the article states, this inexpensive technology is available now. Although autonomous cars do sound pretty cool.

Word Of Mouth

Word Of Mouth

Photo © Always Shooting

America Recycles Day

America Recycles Day

Today is America Recycles Day! Recycling is at the basis of living a sustainable lifestyle, and the best part is — it’s easy! Join the movement and inform yourselves on what can and cannot be recycled; and make a little extra effort to ensure those items don’t end up in the trash!

Recycling can have a big impact on the environment.

In 2009 alone, Americans recycled over 82 million tons of materials. The reduction in CO2 emissions from this recycling is the same as taking 33 million cars off the road!

We are headed down the right track but it takes everyone to make it an effective system! Start today to make recycling a habit in your sustainable lifestyle! When you make sure that your paper, bottles, and other non-trash items end up in the recycling bin, make sure to buzz the Bin to Win pin!

Think paper and bottles are the only things that should have another life? Not true! Old electronics like cell phones and CD players should be recycled as well so their earth metals can be reused. Buzz the Second Life pin when you recycle an old electronic.

Another way to support recycling is at the store. In 2010 America recovered over 60% of paper to recycle into new products. When you buy paper or toilet paper, try brands that use recycled materials to lessen your impact. Then buzz the Blank Sheet or Bear Bum pins!

Visit to find out more about what can be recycled, to find a recycling location near you, and to get more info on the impact that recycling can have!

Photo ©