Flip off the Phantom
Flip off the phantom

Which message actually changed behavior?

Flip Off the Phantom social norms message


Flip Off the Phantom informational message



Colorado State University has a problem that is shared by millions of building owners.  Despite extensive investments in building upgrades, energy usage in their residence halls has held steady or increased.

In the Fall of 2010, we implemented a behavior change campaign in the CSU residence halls.  Our low-cost campaign, "Flip Off the Phantom", consisted of posters placed in the hallways outside of the students’ rooms. This campaign encouraged students to reduce their electricity consumption by shutting off and unplugging electronic devices in their rooms.

Phantom Loads

"Phantom Loads" or "energy vampires" are electronic appliances that are using energy when they are turned off. Your television, coffee maker, garage door opener, stereo, cable box, and chargers for cell phones or laptops are all using energy when they are plugged in but not turned on. The typical home has over a dozen vampire appliances. Each of them uses more energy daily while in standby mode than during the short time each day they are turned on.

Energy use in homes can be reduced by about 5% by unplugging these electronic devises or switching off a power strip.

Each of CSU's 13 residence halls received one of these messages.  See the posters in the sidebar (right).  One of these messages is based on social science theory whereas the other isn't.

Which one do you think was more effective?

Message A or Message B

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