Date of Completion

Spring 5-2-2014

Thesis Advisor(s)

Kathleen Segerson

Honors Major



Economics | Sustainability


This work examines alternative approaches for middle-class Americans to make lifestyle changes to promote energy efficiency. The US residential sector poses a significant opportunity for improvement in efficiency which will lead to electricity and carbon savings, further leading to long-term cost savings for each household.

A way to think about energy savings is by considering two radically different approaches: voluntary simplicity or investment in technology. Investments in technology include retrofits for existing homes and building new homes more efficiently, both focusing on aspects such as heating and cooling, insulation, water use and water heating, lighting, and appliances. Voluntary simplicity is rooted in choosing a simplistic lifestyle, and simplifiers make alternative consumption choices based on ethical and environmental considerations.

This paper will explore the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches, including potential barriers to implementation and solutions, and will analyze the potential economic impacts of a major shift towards either practice. While investing in technology or choosing to simplify are not mutually exclusive practices, by analyzing each method separately it becomes clear that embracing either approach or a combination of the two has great potential to positively impact both the US environment and the economy.