What evidence do you have for the measurable changes people have made as a result of taking part in Carbon Conversations?
Funders very often ask for evidence of measurable changes which people have made as a result of taking part in Carbon Conversations. Although we do have evidence for carbon reductions, accurate figures are hard to arrive at and we suggest that you emphasise the other benefits of Carbon Conversations as well – its effectiveness in preparing people for change, engaging people with the problem, dealing with anxiety and developing a sense of agency to name but a few.
Measuring the carbon reduction an individual achieves through any intervention is difficult for a number of reasons:
  1. You need to establish an accurate baseline. This usually means having accurate data for at least a year before instituting any change. This is feasible for the areas of home energy and transport, much more difficult for food and other consumption.
  2. You need to keep accurate records for another year in order to make a comparison. Keeping contact with people over this two year period is difficult.
  3. You need to develop a method that will show that the reductions the person makes are due to Carbon Conversations and not to another intervention. (There’s an awful lot of double counting in the figures offered for carbon reduction so you do need to be careful about this. For example the manufacturer of a low-energy light-bulb, the campaigner who persuades someone to buy it, the shop that sells it and the person who buys it may all claim credit for the carbon reduction which it results in.)
  4. You need to allow for other influences that may have affected someone’s carbon emissions such as variations in the weather between the two years or alterations in the carbon intensity of the electricity supply.
  5. You need to make a calculation for the rebound effect – the fact that saving carbon in one area can lead to increased emissions in another. (This is discussed for each area of the footprint in In Time for Tomorrow?)
What we do have are estimates derived from three sources:
  1. An analysis by Simon Merrington of 129 feedback forms showing the actions people intended to take following a group. This work was done in 2010 so is quite old but shows that people finished the groups with an intention to make reductions that would result in savings of between 1 and 3 tonnes of CO2.
  2. An analysis of the intentions of one group of people, undertaken by Pamela McLean for her MSc thesis which found intentions to make reductions of between 0.2 and 3.25 tonnes of CO2. This work was done in 2010 so is also quite old
  3. An analysis of two groups of people undertaken by Southampton University in 2015 which found intended reductions of 3.7 tonnes, measured using the lifestyle calculator which is on the website. This research was not formally written up so cannot be cited but you can read about the rest of Southampton University’s research on Carbon Conversations, ‘It helped me sort of face the end of the world’: the role of emotions for third sector climate change engagement initiatives

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