Making Renewables and Energy Efficiency Visible in Hungary

This blog is not just about the renewable or energy efficiency potential in a small Central European country — although Hungary does have huge potential in both areas. It’s also about the way that you can turn this potential into reality.

According to a 2011 study conducted by a regional NGO, Energiaklub, total annual energy consumption of family houses and traditional multi-storey buildings in Hungary could be reduced by 40 percent — saving the equivalent amount of fuels burnt in all Hungarian power plants — simply through implementing energy efficiency refurbishments. Yes, 40 percent. And that’s simply through relatively easy changes, such as insulation and updating heating systems. But how do you make the leap from what could be, to what is? 

In reality, this article is about the possible ways to convince people to renovate their homes, or install renewables, to achieve such benefits. Fresh research, also conducted by Energiaklub, showed that in the last 10 years two-thirds of Hungarian houses were renovated. Thanks to these renovations, home energy costs have reduced on average by 20-25 percent. With such impressive results, the research team wanted to share their findings, and reached out to us as their communication partner to find the best way to do so.  Instead of a simple ‘run of the mill’ report or presentation of the research, we — BEE Environmental Communication — suggested that this is a very good opportunity to promote the topic to a much wider public. We believe that really important issues – especially environmental ones — need a brand new communication style in order to compete with all the other media ‘noise’ that the general public is exposed to daily.

Hoping that the important message from Energiaklub’s research will reach more households in our target country, Hungary, we chose to make an unique video to spread the research results. Instead of the overused animation techniques or info-video styles, we built a 3D mock-up city — entirely from paper. We created more than 120 small paper houses, cutting out more than 2000 tiny windows and doors. The video features not only paper houses, but also a paper pig, cars, a bus stop, solar panels, and even a bathtub, sink and a paper-painting.

The motivation for this video was not simply the visual or design elements — we also took into consideration the important findings of psychology and communication. Amongst psychologists, it is a well known fact that behavior cannot only be changed through information provision. More powerful, and definitely more promising, is building on new approaches such as community-based social marketing, or the use of social norms.

At the end of the day, one of the most powerful drivers of individual behavioural change is social change; seeing new practices being taken up in your community, makes it more likely for new people to also embrace it. When you see your neighbor with a new, beautiful type of flower in the garden — you probably want the same for your own garden. So, while energy efficiency may be hard to see, if you know it has been done, and are made aware of its benefits, you are more likely to implement it yourself.

While energy may seem invisible, it’s time we made it — and the potential to save it — visible! 

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I am an environmental communications expert with more than 15 years of experience. I have previously worked in the advertising industry as a Creative Director, but a few years ago I decided to apply my skills to the environmental field. I led the development of communication strategies and products for both governmental and non-governmental institutions. My last commitment before launching BEE was with one of the largest environmental NGOs in Hungary, as the Communication Director. A main focus area of mine has been renewable energy and climate change. I have an LLM in Environmental Law and an MA in Communications and Media

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