A new tool for sustainable living

By Gareth Williams | 25 May 2022

We know our residents in Buckinghamshire are very concerned about climate change. A residents’ survey revealed they are already feeling the impact of climate change, noticing hotter summers and wetter winters.

Our goal, in line with many other local authorities and central Government, is to reach net zero carbon emissions in Buckinghamshire by 2050.

To do this, we need everyone, from individuals to big businesses, to play their part in reducing carbon emissions and securing a future for our planet.

We know that many people living in Buckinghamshire are trying to reduce their carbon emissions. But we need more widespread adoption of environmentally sustainable behaviours.

The challenge is to make individuals aware of what can be done and encourage them so that they actually make those changes.

Research around climate change communications has revealed that having an ongoing tracker is very motivational for people, so that they can see in real time the difference their actions are making.

Currently, all we really have to go on is long-term carbon emissions data or air quality data – which is not always available on a timely or user-friendly basis.

We certainly don’t want to wait until 2050 to evaluate our climate change campaign to see if we have reached our goal of net zero carbon emissions.

However, building some kind of live carbon tracker to share with residents is wildly beyond our remit – more a project for Silicon Valley than Buckinghamshire Council. So, we looked to see what was already out there, which is how we came across the AWorld app.

AWorld is the official platform in support of the United Nations ACTNOW for climate change campaign, so the credentials were instantly appealing.

The app guides users towards living sustainably. It does this by showing you how much energy or water you can save by making small changes to your daily life and creating new habits – such as putting the washing machine in eco wash mode or walking to the local shop instead of driving.

The most appealing aspect of the app was the possibility of having a Buckinghamshire dashboard to follow the combined progress of everyone using the app in the county.

We are proud to be the first local authority in the UK to work with AWorld and use their app. It has proved to be a helpful and supportive partner, including developing a dashboard for us.

It is early days and using this app is a bit of an unknown. It is a new way of engaging with our residents, particularly on a specific subject, so we are interested to see how it develops. We are certainly hopeful it will be a useful way to monitor engagement with our climate change campaign and provide us with some kind of measurement of climate actions being taken by residents.

We know the app won’t appeal to everyone and the data is not going to be a completely accurate representation of people’s carbon and water savings, but it will give us some valuable indications and will hopefully prove to be a great way of keeping people engaged and motivated.

The use of the AWorld app ties in neatly with Buckinghamshire Council’s Climate Change and Air Quality Strategy and our £5m fund to tackle climate change. We have a variety of large and ambitious projects to reduce energy at the council – such as installing heat pumps and converting our vehicle fleet to electric – but small, green changes can also make a big difference to our environmental future.

From my experience, once you start noticing all the ways in which you can cut back, it is relatively easy to form new habits. For example, our family are now always careful to shop for local produce and recycle whenever possible.

I would encourage people to download AWorld for free to see just how useful a tool it is. You will also be able to learn some of the simple steps we can all take to make a positive difference to the future

Gareth Williams is Buckinghamshire Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for climate change and environment

@BucksCouncil

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