Are you interested in understanding more about what you can do to help address climate change? It's not just governments and businesses that need to take action. A study by Ivanova et al from 2015 found that more than 60% of global carbon emissions can be traced back to household-level consumption. And in Australia, we have one of the highest rates of per person carbon pollution in the world. The good news is - there's heaps you can do to help yourself and your community reduce emissions and live more sustainably, all while saving money, spending time with friends and getting healthier. Sounds pretty good right?
But first - here's a little bit more info on the problem
Did you know that household consumption makes up more than 60% of global CO2-e emissions? We also know that technological fixes alone cannot solve the problem of climate change. The United Nations International Panel on Climate Change advises that shifts in consumer behaviour and lifestyle are also essential to limit global warming below 2° Celsius.
In developed economies like Australia and the United States, where per capita emissions are over 5 times higher than the global average, behavioural changes must include reducing the amount of meat consumed per person, modal shifts in transportation away from single passenger vehicles to public transport, and a reduction in household consumption of material resources.
But psychological studies show people find changing consumption and lifestyle habits difficult, even when they care about climate change. This difficulty stems primarily from cognitive and behavioural biases, including people’s strong tendency to follow the path of least resistance and to favour short-term gains over long-term consequences, and the belief that individual choices have little effect on the problem of climate change.
There is also currently no website or mobile app where people can receive tailored information on the types of emission reductions they could make across all sectors (i.e. food, transport, finance, waste, consumption, energy and water), based on their preferences (e.g. expense, effort, focus area) and location (tying pro-environmental behaviours to local products and services), with suggestions and information framed in the ways that are scientifically proven to facilitate engagement and behaviour change.
So what's the the opportunity?
What's more, there's evidence that when we make more sustainable choices, like cutting down on meat or installing solar panels on our rooftop, it has a significant flow on effect in our communities. For example, one big Harvard study that spanned a 10-year period in California found that people were more likely to install solar panels on their rooftops if their neighbours had solar panels, and amazingly, this was irrespective of things like voter preference (see coverage of the study and a link to the paper here). So in many instances, you convince people around you to change their behaviour, not by arguing, but simply by showing leadership through visibly changing your own behaviour.
There is a huge market opportunity for a digital user interface that provides these features and that makes it easy, fun, cheap and social to reduce household emissions and enable sustainable lifestyle changes in ways that are quantifiable and that tailor to people’s preferences. That's where The Neighbourhood Effect comes in. To read more about our organisation - check out our 'about us' section.
In the meantime, here are 4 things you could start doing today to help reduce your emissions:
Cut down on meat - it's the single most impactful thing you can do to reduce your ecological footprint (because of the huge amount of energy, water and land it takes to grow livestock, along with the grain to feed them). You can start by trying to eat meat a couple of times a week rather than every day, and go from there. Based on information from the World Health Organisation, a diet that consists mostly of plant-based foods with whole grains is the healthiest option for most people and cutting down on red meat in particular reduces your risk of a developing a number of different cancers. If everyone ate the Word Health Organisation's recommended daily intake of meat (90 grams a day), then we'd be about a third of the way to staying below 2 degrees of global warming, just from that one change.
Buy GreenPower! If you are a renter or can't afford solar panels, you could think about buying GreenPower through Canberra's electricity retailer, ActewAGL. GreenPower is a national scheme that adds renewable energy into the electricity grid, over and above the amount legislated in the Renewable Energy Target, when you consume electricity. The electricity you consume is either partially or fully offset by the GreenPower added into the grid, and encourages the growth of renewable energy in Australia. For an average household, buying 100% GreenPower costs the equivalent of just over two extra cups of coffee a week, so if you're happy to pay a bit extra to offset your energy - then you can call ActewAGL on 13 14 93 (have your account number ready from a recent electricity bill) and ask them to switch you to GreenPower! They supply GreenPower through their accredited scheme 'Green Choice' - you can also sign up online here: http://tinyurl.com/actewaglgreen
Start hanging your clothes out to dry, instead of using your dryer. Energy companies say that dryers are on of the biggest energy sucks in a typical household. If you start air drying your clothes using a clothes hanger, you'll cut your emissions while saving money on your next electricity bill.
Plan your week so you catch the bus or cycle to and from work one day a week. You can check out Canberra's bus timetables and routes here, and, if you're a bit rusty on the bicycle, check out Pedal Power, a local Canberra business that offers classes for adult cyclists to get them confident using Canberra's roads and amazing array of cycle paths.