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Five Shades of Green: Energy Conservation Attitudes in Cooper-Young

May 25, 2010

by Amy Dunbar

Green is everywhere. From bumper stickers to logos on t-shirts, Cooper-Young is busting with shades of green. These shades are not the colors found in a crayon box or the colors of the trees and bushes. Rather, they are shades of attitude regarding energy conservation.

I recently completed research which was done in cooperation with the University of Memphis and Memphis, Light, Gas and Water for my master’s thesis. This research revealed five distinct attitudes regarding energy conservation which will be used as part of the Smallest User Energy Conservation Contest.

According to my research, the apathetic, the cynical, the entitled, the prudent and the optimist are five attitudes that individuals in Cooper-Young community have regarding energy conservation.

The optimist:
One participant noted, “I worry about the future and how the environment will impact my children. That is why recycling is important.”

Individuals with this dominant opinion currently recycle and conserve energy. They also tend to be optimistic about their role in improving the environment.

The prudent:
Another participant said, “I am on a tight budget, so my motivation for conserving energy is saving money. If I have to spend more money to conserve, I won’t do it.”

These participants show a high level of economic concern which dictates their green actions. Being prudent with resources supersedes energy upgrades, which means they are less likely to replace appliances that work for ones that are energy efficient.

The entitled:
Conversely, those participants grouped in the entitled category felt that comfort is more important than anything else. Money is not an issue. Yet, these individual demonstrate a competitive nature, which may motivate them to participate in the contest.

“I work hard and make a good living. Therefore, I should be provided with as many utilities as I am willing to pay for,” one participant said.

The cynical:
Believing “I can’t make a difference, so why bother,” this group is less likely to go green than the previous three groups.

In spite of this, though, these participants display a high concern for the opinion of others and are likely to act green in order to appear to be doing the right or cool thing.

The apathetic:
This final group is flippant and nonchalant about green issues. Although they are aware of a need to conserve, they do not want to make the changes needed to do so. Rather than money or comfort, these individuals are most concerned about time.

“I don’t have the time to go green,” said one participant. “There are more important things for me to be worried about.”

Blending the Shades

Due to the extremes of these attitudes, the Smallest User Energy Conservation Contest will create specific messages for each group. Although that means there will be multiple green messages floating around, the goal is to blend the five shades of attitude producing similar green behaviors within both neighborhoods.

Amy Dunbar received a Master’s of Journalism from the University of Memphis in May 2010. Participants of this research project were guaranteed anonymity by the University of Memphis Institutional Review Board. For more information about her thesis or this research, please contact her at

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