Public Engagement – May 2012 Newsletter

Lessons From Abroad


Recently I visited home, Chicago and I had a chat with acouple of interesting people there about some of the climate change initiatives going on there.  First, I met with Catherine Game, a consultant for the City of Chicago on climate change.  She informed me about the city’s initiative to retrofit buildings to increase energy efficiency.  Next year all buildings will have to disclose their energy rating.  They began this year with mandatory disclosure of all public buildings.  Along with this, a privately financed fund will be available for businesses that want to increase their energy efficiency.  Another initiative was recently launched by the Field Museum, a museum focused on natural history, science, and anthropology.  The museum launched a tool kit to engage communities in starting their own climate action projects.  The site shows four neighbourhoods that started this, along with advice on how to start projects in other areas.

I also had the opportunity to meet the sustainability manager for the Frontera Restaurant Group, Jeff Maimon. He told me about the composting program the restaurant participates in. They are one of the largest restaurant groups in the city to compost all their organic food waste. When asked about the reasoning behind this practice, Jeff told me it was more about doing the right thing and building strong relationships with local farmers, something the company incorporates in its core mission. Even the employees are taken to the local farms to see where their produce comes from and to meet the famers. I asked if customers seemed to be interested in their sustainability efforts, and he told me customers are less concerned about the sustainability of the food, but they are increasingly more curious about where their food comes from, a trend that has been growing rapidly in Chicago.

Revisiting Common Cause

On the 25th of April, WWF and Oxfam sponsored a Common Cause Values and Frames workshop. The workshop was packed, and the speakers Pam McLean and Osbert Lancaster mentioned the increasingly level of interest in these workshops. By appealing to certain values you should be able to change behaviour over time. This change is slow because of the many barriers to change that must be overcome. Some of these barriers include beliefs, attitudes, culture, economy, infrastructure, and personal agency. Looking at these combined it is difficult to see the levers for change – a question that came up in the workshop. The idea is if you want to increase environmentalism, you create a campaign that appeals to that value, which all individuals should have. The speakers did emphasise that this is just one of many models for behaviour change. The handbook identifies 57 different values which are considered universal across cultures.

One group activity was to identify which of the 57 values fostered social movements and which values inhibited movements. Most people identified values that fell under the Universalism group as ones that foster social movements. Values falling under the Power group were unanimously voted to inhibit movements.

Preliminary work conducted by Tom Crompton, the author of the Common Cause Handbook, helps give you further insight into the path that led to this popular piece. The report, Weathercock and Signposts looks at the ways to overcome the barriers to behaviour change in the climate change context.

Visualising the Future

If you haven’t visited the site before, my2050 gives a visual representation of the UK in 2050, and the level of effort it would take to meet the proposed emissions targets. It’s a great tool to show people the amount of effort and what types of changes in lifestyle are required to meet those targets. Great site to visit if you have a spare 5 – 10 minutes. There is a more involved site called the 2050 PathwayAnalysis, which is a bit more involved but very interesting.

Rio+20 and Green Dreams


“Meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This is what many of the world’s leaders will be gathering to discuss this June. The big event coming up, June 20 – 22 in Rio de Janeiro, will bring the world’s leaders, and then some, together to discuss issues surrounding sustainability within the context of the worst case scenario projected by the IPCC setting the stage. The two main themes for the conference are the importance of a green economy to help eradicate poverty through sustainable development and the institutional framework for sustainable development.

An additional theme is “The Future We Want,” which is a global initiative to engage the public in visualising what a sustainable future looks like. The site makes the solutions to increasing climate issues visual and relatable. Solutions range from solar energy for rural areas to net-zero building, adaptive re-use and effective management. The conference participants are looking at the messages to see what the general public thinks should be done to create a sustainable world. Within that project lies the My Green Dream project, this allows people to upload videos of what their dream for the future is. The My Green Dream project is based on the Dream:IN project, a campaign held in India last year that captured short clips of people on the street regarding their hopes and dreams for the future of India. The hope is to get people from all over the world, of all different backgrounds discussing the issues surrounding the ability to support an increasing population.

Public Engagement Webinars

Recently Creative Councils held a series of webinars on issues in public engagement. The recordings for the series along with the slides are available here.

Walk the Talk Challenge

Recently it has become apparent that many of us that aim to lead the way to a Low-Carbon Scotland don’t always incorporate this into our lives. I know I am certainly guilt of this and there is much more I should be doing. This idea is highlighted in the journal article by Carrington et al (2010). The author’s discuss the idea of the Green Gap or the intention-behaviour gap, that despite our intentions, we don’t always follow through with them. In order to become low-carbon leaders we must challenge ourselves to lead by example. Let us know a unique change you have made in your life and the challenges you had to overcome to lead a more low-carbon lifestyle.

Sites of Interest

Interesting blog on green product purchase decisions

RecylceBank –earn rewards for green behaviour, can we get them here?!

Green Alliance Blog on Hyper local action

Going Carbon Neutral Stirling

White Paper on Personal Carbon Allowances

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