• 04.15.11

What If Your Neighbors Knew How Much Electricity You Use?

A new project in England records a street’s electricity use in a piece of public art.

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

About the author

Morgan is a senior editor at Fast Company. He edits the Ideas section, formerly