On cold winter nights, I would sometimes find my wife huddling on the toilet with her hair dryer lying on the floor next to her feet (I’m not making this up). My wife’s wasteful habit is using 1500 watts of high-velocity hot air to warm her toes.
While I salute the creativity of her solution, I experience the loss of each one of those watts like the passing of a family pet. So I retreat immediately to find one of the four pairs of insulated slippers I’ve bought for her, and beg her to end this pointless waste, not to mention the slaughter of innocent electrons.
I shut off the running water while she’s brushing her teeth. She complains about the low-flow shower head. I harangue her about turning off the lights when she leaves a room. She’s completely fed up with trash sorting and leaves anything that could conceivably be recycled lying in various squirrel-like caches around our house. I start to close the refrigerator door if she’s been staring into it for more than 20 seconds. She turns the thermostat up and I turn it down. Back and forth it goes…
Though our waste and energy war at home may continue indefinitely, I’ve found a way to make a living from my condition, and I’m pleased to report that it’s not as a circus sideshow act. It’s probably what saves our marriage, and possibly my neck.
Changing Human Behavior Is My Passion
My first job at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency posed the following challenge: How can we get Americans to care enough about the second leading cause of lung cancer to place a $15 radon test kit in their home? I was hooked! I helped to convince people it was easy, inexpensive and could potentially save their lives.
I now run a Boston-based consulting firm, called AlterAction. Dedicated to changing human behavior on a large-scale, we brainstorm creative ways to show people (and organizations) how to save electricity, drive more efficient vehicles, and overall be less wasteful.
I look forward to sharing some of the things I’ve learned over the past 25 years about changing the wasteful habits of humans with the WeHateToWaste community going forward.
Wasteful Habits Inspire Meaningful Solutions
I know what you’re really wondering, though: Is my wife still using a 1500-watt hair dryer to warm her feet? The answer, thankfully, is very rarely. What worked is one of the classic tricks of the trade: changing the context in which the behavior took place.
What that means is, I simply place one of the aforementioned four pairs of toasty-warm slippers near her hair dryer. Now, whenever she’s tempted, she has an alternative staring her in the face (or feet?) – an alternative with a very appealing side benefit – it preempts my grousing.
While I confess that I’m hypersensitive to wasteful habits at work and at home, I hope that my wife will forgive me and find room in her heart to tolerate my affliction for many more years to come. If there are other husbands and wives out there suffering from my “condition,” please don’t be afraid to tame your wasteful spouse as I have done. Please share your own creative strategies with the rest of us below.
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