There are lots of different ways to support Climate Week: encouraging… taking action… challenging… celebrating… What’s yours?

Looking forward to this week, three Transition Tooting colleagues – Susan, Alice and Charles – facilitated a workshop a fortnight ago with a dozen staff in a UK Government department, to contribute a stimulus for the senior director to write a personal blog during Climate Week. That blog has been posted yesterday on the department’s internal website: it touches on individual behaviours and choices as well as the department’s activities. 

Why invest the time? For context, as in many organisations, there is a range of views and assumptions in this department about climate – and some sensitivity to change. It is easy to underestimate the  potential impact in an organisation of even a simple blog like this that demonstrates awareness, humanity and personal leadership. Clear communication is such an effective way to support change!

What did we do in our workshop? Charles and Susan ran the ‘Home Energy’ section of Carbon Conversations (the five-part series of meetings TTT has offered locally over the past year), and discussed Susan’s own experience of carbon reduction in her own family’s house.
Alice captured some of the interchange and questions from participants in a graphic record – also placed on the department’s internal web. Here’s one of her super drawings, reflecting discussion about Susan’s house:

You’ll see the mention of the OWL electricity monitoring meter: that is where the senior director starts his blog. Please read on…….

“Owls are currently big in our house….

First, Helena (who is now 12) has been engaged in a theatrical presentation at school of a much loved children’s book, “Owl Babies”.  This required her (or more to the point, her granny and other adults in the household) to create a vast cardboard owl costume, ten or twenty times the size of an actual barn owl.  An unconscionable number of mostly adult person hours went in to this, and a rather smaller number of 12 year old ones.  Were she to be measured against the Senior Civil Service competencies, Helenawould score more highly on “setting direction” than on “engaging our people”.  So there was a certain frisson surrounding the owl construction project, especially in relation to those, like me, tasked with the clearing up stage of things.  Fortunately the performance itself went off really well.

But the other prominent owl is our new electricity use monitoring device.  Many of you, I’m sure, will have them.  They tell you throughout the day exactly what your current electricity consumption is, and what it is costing you.  After an initial moment in which the younger members of the household competed with each other to see who could work out what combination of electrical appliances would send the device to the maximum dizzying level of expenditure, we have now got into quite a good routine.  The device sits on the kitchen table.  Mealtimes are preceded by a scurrying around process in which devices currently not being used have their plugs removed from sockets and switches turned off.  We are saving a small fortune.

I have drawn two important insights from our electricity owl.  First, transparency is really powerful.  Simply seeing what we are consuming is leading us to consume less.  That is a real opportunity provided by Behavioural Insight work like that on transparency, nudge etc.  Second, thinking about our carbon footprint at home keeps climate change much more prominently in my mind when I arrive at work.

The idea to get an Owl came from a ‘Carbon Conversation’ on energy in the home with a group of staff from across the department. We met a couple of weeks ago. The group discussed a range of ideas from solar panels and insulation down to energy efficient light bulbs and recycling.

This week, as you know, is Climate Week….. ”

(…the blog continues, exploring the department’s own work).

What’s next? It was a very useful experience for us to facilitate together as a team. Personally, it showed me that one can achieve a lot in an hour, even from a ‘standing start’. And it was a creative way to work with a new kind of audience: I hope we can bring that experience back to Tooting, and to the way we run Carbon Conversations.

To follow in the footsteps of TTT helping to influence exploration of climate change impact and personal behaviours….. do go and see Susan Venner’s house in Balham for yourself. It is open to the public on 24 March for guided tours. It’s a fascinating visit hosted by Susan, and places are limited, so please book on this link if you wish to join:

– Charles