Fast Company

What If Your Neighbors Knew How Much Electricity You Use?

The bad neighbors of the future won't have an unmowed lawn and a car on blocks in the driveway, instead they'll be the people on the block who are guzzling resources. We'll know because everyone's electricity will be public so we can gameify conservation. In Brighton, England, they've taken the first steps toward this, recording a street's electricity use on the street itself, resulting in a 15% reduction.

This project, called Tidy Street, was actually more Kumbaya, neighborhood collectivism project than shame-your-wasteful neighbor. Each participant recorded his or her household's electricity use on a website, which then collected the street's average (individual results were private because Tidy Streets cares about privacy and isn't as into shaming as we are). Every day, the street artist Snub would add the results to the piece, which compared the street's use to the average use in Brighton.

The project is going to continue, though without the street art component. Organizer Jon Bird hopes it will prove that just having real-time updates on your own electricity use results in savings, because it's not really feasible to turn every street into art pieces cum social messages. Tidy Street is going to remove the art in a few weeks, but is pursuing other public forms of broadcasting group energy use around the city. We hope it's a big red arrow over the most wasteful people's houses, but given the more friendly vibe Tidy Streets has used so far, it will probably be a little more benign.

Photos by Nora O'Murchu

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2 Comments

  • Bryan P

    What a horrible concept. In principle, sure, it sounds great. But who's to say neighbors should or do have equal needs? Maybe one household are eworkers and spend all day at home on their computers. They're saving more resources versus driving to work. Perhaps another household has medical issues and require powered medical devices. What about the family of 7 vs the one bachelor? You can't compare apples and apples just by looking at everyone's electric bill.

  • Stuart Bogue

    It's an average per street.Presumably,the various needs of any individual occupant on any given street will even out. The idea is create a measurable incentive for everyone,no matter their needs, to be conscious of their usage. Neighborhood pride increased and energy consumption decreased.To repeat and clarify,no individuals were graded or exposed. The street/neighborhoods use was averaged. Shared responsibility and all that.....You ask "who's to say neighbors should or do have equal needs"? No one in this article or this program makes any attempt to say....that is clear....