Comparing Energy Use across the Globe

October 22, 2013

By Jennifer Ross

Note: In recent discussions among Communicating about Energy in the Triangle team members, we have explored reasons why energy use behavior varies around the world. Here’s one insight from one of our team members.

While evaluating and learning from other countries’ legislation can lay the framework for a transition towards a more energy efficient society, cultural components also explain the current variation between countries. Much of this is related to Shove’s (2003) discussion of comfort, cleanliness and convenience. Take the example of laundry. In the US, it is the cultural norm for every home to have both a washer and dryer. By contrast, in the EU it is much more common for households to own just the washer, drying clothes on a line outdoors. In this instance, to improve energy use with respect to laundry it would be much more challenging to convince an American to air dry his/her laundry than a European. The questions then are numerous. How do these cultural norms become instilled? Was this a conscious decision in the EU that can be replicated in the US? Does the consumer-driven and convenience-focused American society hold similar enough values to the European for these practices to be transferable?


Shove, E. (2003). Converging conventions of comfort, cleanliness and convenience. Journal of Consumer Policy, 26: 395-418.