Help for households to fight carbon threat

Lily Dempster… “Over 60 per cent of global emissions are caused by households through their consumer choices.” Photo by Danielle Nohra

Lily Dempster… “Over 60 per cent of global emissions are caused by households through their consumer choices.” Photo by Danielle Nohra

SIXTY per cent of the world’s emissions trace back to households, which is why Lily Dempster, founder of the social enterprise The Neighbourhood Effect, has made it her mission to create an easy way to help households reduce this percentage.

She’s developed an app, which she calls a “FitBit” for carbon and while it’s still in the making (until November), she’s encouraging people to go on to the website, check out the model and give some feedback.

It’s a “test, learn, adapt model” but essentially it offers easy solutions to reduce household emissions, tailored for each person’s lifestyle.

From a young age Lily, 29, of O’Connor, had known she wanted to do something in social justice but it wasn’t until she was studying law when she realised how big of a problem climate change was going to be.

“I grew up in a family where we talked about politics and social justice at the dinner table,” she says.

“Climate change is the biggest social-justice issue facing the planet.

“It’s a really big problem and it needs a lot of people working on it.”

So Lily is taking her background in law, social science, public policy and renewable energy technology, and is using the app and behavioural science to help people shrink their electricity bill or cut down on food waste, in a way that is personally tailored to their lifestyle and household.

“When you trace greenhouse gas emissions back through supply chains, you find households in developed countries like ours are causing a huge chunk of global carbon emissions, through our day-to-day behaviours and our consumer choices,” she says.

“If we act together to make a few small changes in our own lives, we can have a substantial and very rapid impact.”

With an increasing number of people who are mentally overloaded, The Neighbourhood Effect is working with psychology, not against it.

“There’s an idea in psychology called the ‘paradox of choice’,” she says.

“If you put too many ideas in front of people, they tend to not do any.

“People don’t have the energy or time or mental bandwidth, so we’re trying to do that for them.”

The app will also connect Canberrans to local climate-friendly products, services and community initiatives such as solar panels or toilet paper.

And, Lily says this will be done independently because they don’t take money or commissions from the businesses or groups recommended.

“We want to prove that it’s both achievable and affordable for people in developed countries to reduce emissions collectively,” she says.

“Over 60 per cent of global emissions are caused by households through their consumer choices.”

So, she says consumers need to change the way they buy.

“One of the biggest things you can do [to reduce your ecological footprint] is reduce your meat,” she says.

According to Lily, the reason is because of the huge amount of energy, water and land it takes to grow livestock, along with the grain to feed them.

Especially in Australia, which she says is one of the biggest meat-eating countries in the world.

“If everyone ate the Word Health Organization’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,” she says.

If people want to get a set of tailored suggestions that suit their household type and lifestyle, she says they can on the website.

“There are lots of things people can do,” she says.

“If we are more mindful about the things we buy and take care of them to last, this is actually good for the environment.

“There are a lot of embodied carbon emissions in the products we buy. So if you need to buy clothing or furniture, try buying second-hand.

“If you need something that you’re only going to use a couple of times, see if you can borrow it from a friend or neighbour.

“The other big thing for Canberrans is heating and cooling costs. We lose a lot of heat in our homes when they’re poorly insulated, and you can actually draught-proof your house in a couple of hours.”

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