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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.