Climate News - February 2022

Climate Corner: From the Center for Behavior and Climate

 

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CHANGING HABITS, ENERGY USE, AND CLIMATE PERCEPTIONS

by Caroly Shumway, Ph.D.

 

In November, the Center for Behavior and Climate sponsored a Behavior Change for Climate Action Challenge. After receiving submissions from around the world, we are so pleased to announce our three grantees: Habits of Waste, Bedford 2030, and the UCDavis Tahoe Environmental Research Center who are working, respectively on changing habits, reducing energy use, and altering climate perceptions. Here's a snapshot of what these great groups are doing, with the behavioral strategies that they are using noted in bold.

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 Changing Habits: Habits comprise 40% of our daily behaviors. Habits of Waste's(HoW) mission is to clean up the planet one habit of waste at a time by empowering individuals to combat climate change by making small changes within their daily lives. The nonprofit believes that most people want to do the right thing but do not always know where to start. HoW finds solutions to create collective societal change through individualized shifts in habitual behavior. HoW's goal is to educate individuals about the power they have to make a massive impact through these simple changes. These individual shifts can make a big difference.

Habits of Waste tries to identify the root causes of normalized waste and create accessible tangible solutions that provide a win-win-win for consumers, businesses, and the environment. From repurposing 20 million restaurant crayons, to spearheading the nation's first ban on plastic straws in Malibu, to eliminating 122 million pieces of plastic cutlery through a nudge that provided default options of no plastic cutlery on 4 major food delivery apps (#CutOutCutlery), Habits of Waste has been remarkably effective.

Habit's of Waste's approach is to launch impactful campaigns that inspire action and educate people about sustainable habits. The group seeks to:

  •          IDENTIFY a 'habit of waste' in the average person's life,
  •          DEVELOP a creative, approachable hook,
  •          EDUCATE the public to increase awareness, and
  •          EMPOWER individuals to act in their communities.

#8 Meals, Habit's of Waste's latest campaign to increase plant-based eating was inspired by the 2020 report by Heller et al. that stated “replacing half of all animal-based foods in the U.S. diet with plant-based alternatives could reduce climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions 1.6 billion metric tons by 2030.”A plant-rich diet is among the top 20 high-impact actions individuals and households can do (Frischmann and Chissell, 2021) and among the top five out of 100 climate solutions for the planet (Drawdown Review, 2020). Animal agriculture is the fourth largest contributor to global warming, contributing over 14% of greenhouse gases worldwide. Just one family meal containing one pound of beef requires up to 8,000 gallons of water to produce. (Check out our collaborator, Just Have a Think's great video on just this topic!) 

Knowing that only 3% of the U.S. population is vegan and that adopting a fully vegan lifestyle can be too challenging for many, Habits of Waste launched the #8Meals Challenge to encourage individuals to swap out just 8 meals a week for plant-based meals. This action has the same impact as switching to a hybrid car. The #8 meal projectfocuses on being “imperfectly vegan,” thereby taking the pressure off. To make plant-based eating easy, Habits of Waste created a free #8Mealsapp with hundreds of plant-based recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. The app also contains planning tools, peer-to-peer support, games, and an impact calculator that tracks a person's individual carbon offset when eating a plant-based diet to help people feel good about their action. If you want to make a change to your own diet, search for Habits of Waste and download the app #8Meals via the App Store or Google Play.

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 Reducing Energy Use: Bedford2030. 28% of global carbon emissions come from energy use and waste in buildings, according to the World Green Building Energy Council. Speaking from experience, it can be daunting to want to change your own building's energy use, reduce heat losses, or get energy-efficient appliances. Where does one turn to, and how does one compare across companies?

Bedford 2030, a grassroots non-profit in Bedford, NY, has helped reduce emissions in Bedford, NY, by 44% over the last 12 years. The nonprofit provides tools and resources for community members to change their own behavior and take action for a cleaner, healthier future. Bedford's 2030 ambitious new goals are to reduce community-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2040. (Net zero means that any greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere are balanced by an equal amount taken out.) The group realized that in order to meet the community's greenhouse gas reduction goals, they needed to motivate and empower community members to reduce energy use in buildings.

Through previous campaigns, Bedford 2030 gained insight into both the barriers and motivators to making energy changes. While residents often intended to make energy changes, behavioral barriers often prevented Bedford residents from taking action. These barriers included perceptions that energy upgrades are foreign, complex, too time-consuming, or expensive. Bedford2030 also learned that support from an impartial trusted source–an expert, community leader, friend, or neighbor–could be a motivating and effective way to address these barriers.

Bedford 2030 created a free Personal Energy Coach to make it easier for community members — including a diverse cross-section of tenants, homeowners, and commercial building owners — to reduce energy use, plan their energy efficiency upgrades, and transition away from fossil fuels. The energy coach will guide building owners and renters through energy upgrades and their value, and share paths, funding, and resources to complete them. The one-year campaign has a goal of hosting 10 bilingual workshops to meet the coach and learn how he can help as well as completing 150+ community consultations in 2022. Other strategies the group will employ include the following:

Partner with credible messengers and use block leaders to motivate change: Bedford 2030 will bring in credible community partners (local libraries, religious leaders, and civic organizations) to help spread the word and co-host workshops and will engage the Town as a partner to endorse the campaign andcelebrate progress. Community members who have already made home or building upgrades will act essentially as block leaders, encouraging others to make the change at Energy Coach parties with friends and neighbors.

Offer cost-saving Incentives to encourage engagement: The project will empower community members to act and make a difference via free “entry-point” devices: free energy-saving devices such as smart power strips, LED bulbs and smart showerheads to give community members a simple way to reduce energy.

Provide post-consultation support to maintain momentum: After the community member has met with the Energy coach, Bedford 2030 will follow up 1 month and 2-6 months later. This is a great way to maintain the momentum of the change that the community member was pursuing.

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Altering Climate Perceptions: UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center /BrandXR. How do we get the public to understand the impacts of our changing climate, so that they then act on it? While a majority of Americans think climate change will impact people in the United States, nearly 20% fewer think it will affect them personally (Yale Center on Climate Communication, 2021).

The UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC), together with BrandXR, a creative studio and no-code augmented reality platform, are developing an augmented reality Instagram Save Our Snow filter to increase the public's awareness of how climate change will negatively impact the much-loved snowpack of Lake Tahoe as it diminishes over time. TERC has been at the forefront of science in the greater Lake Tahoe region and has been monitoring the lake’s health for the last 60 years.

The Save Our Snow filter is the first educational Instagram filter to show how skiers and snowboarders will be impacted by climate change. The filter highlights how much snow has been lost in the last 70 years, based on historical data from the California Department of Water Resources. The Save Our Snow filter also highlights predictions of a potentially snowless future and includes an urgent call to mitigate climate impacts. The project's goals are to:

  •          PUT THE USER IN THE CHANGING SNOW STORY to personally engage skiers and snowboarders,
  •          START THE CONVERSATION,
  •          PROVIDE HOPE, and
  •          ENCOURAGE ACTION.

The project taps into the accessibility of social media to share snowpack projections, using the unique ability of augmented reality to show the unseen and place the user in the story, from the fluffy deep snow of past winters to an increasingly grim future for those who appreciate and understand the importance of snow. Printed and online material will convey the campaign slogan and increase awareness. A carbon calculator will be modified to identify the actual CO2 reductions that local actions would provide to increase a sense of response efficacy: the belief that what people are doing can actually make a difference.

The campaign hopes to make users more aware of diminishing snowpack in their area, become more knowledgeable about different climate scenarios based on the choices they make, share the filter with friends and family to start a conversation, and learn about the actions they can take to help slow climate change. Social labeling will be used to increase collective action, and people will be encouraged to pledge to reduce their CO2 emissions by 1 ton/year.

UC Davis TERC researchers used Global Climate Models (GCMs) to develop projections of expected snowpack in the future. The model results were downscaled to adapt to Lake Tahoe and applied to the Tahoe Watershed Model. “Working in the field of environmental science and seeing the climate projections can leave us with a sense of doom and gloom,” said Heather Segale, TERC education and outreach director. “However, it is within our power to reduce the rate of climate change. We can’t lose hope. If we all make more conscientious choices and take immediate action, we can still protect our winters.”

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Palisades Tahoe and Protect Our Winters provided promotional support. Data for the continuous monitoring of Lake Tahoe, long-term meteorology, and projections of future climate scenarios were provided by a range of federal, state, and local agencies.

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The Center for Behavior and Climate is proud to have these 3 groups as our grassroots awardees, demonstrating the value of a behavior change approach to climate action. Funding for the challenge was provided by the Agape Foundation. The Environment Council of Rhode Island's Education Fund was our fiscal sponsor.

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