September 23, 2009
New Scientist reports on the psychology of climate change, and references a couple of papers on the subject.
Bottom lines from this:
1/ Psychology can help how we sell the message that change is needed, and that change is good.
2/ Messages need to be tailored to the interests of individual groups
3/ ‘Fitting in with the crowd’ is powerful. So working with others to conserve resources works.
4/ Having information about your own consumption is really important, as are comparisons with others, but look out for data that shows people use less than their peers, which may encourage more usage.
In one experiment, the researchers left information with households in San Marcos asking them to use fans rather than air conditioners at night, turn off lights and take shorter showers. Some messages simply stressed energy conservation, some talked about future generations, while others emphasised the financial savings. But it was the flyers that implored residents to join with their neighbours in saving energy that were most effective in cutting electricity consumption (Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, vol 34, p 913).
MOST people seem to conserve energy if provided with real-time feedback on how much they are using. But feedback can be too immediate.
Studies show that devices that display domestic energy usage produce savings of between 5 and 12 per cent.
Lots of useful info and links to the actual papers at newscientist.com
September 5, 2009
To make good on that 10:10 committment of reducing your CO2 by 10% by 2010, how are you going to do it?
Here are three things you can do to get started:
1. Sign up to 10:10
If you haven’t made a committment to the 10% reduction, go to the 10:10 website and sign up. That’s important. It adds to the volume of people and business that have signed up, and makes it harder for the government to ignore, so there’s something useful for them to take to Copenhagen. You can sign up as a person or as a business or as a school or an organisation.
2. Look at the Guardian G2 guide to get ideas where to make changes
The Guardian published a really clear guide to personal carbon reductions, with simple actions and real numbers. They start with averages of CO2 per year then lists lots of actions you can take to make CO2 savings. It begins:
Every year, each person in the UK is, on average, responsible for about 14 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. (The government’s published figures suggest a lower amount, but they omit things such as international aviation.) So, if we want to make a genuine cut of 10% across the board, we need to reduce our emissions by about 1.4 tonnes each. Let’s call it 1.5 tonnes, just to be sure.
And goes on with useful savings you can make by tonnes per year. This is the best short reference I have seen so far.
3. Start an EcoTeam, measure and reduce
Gather your neighbours or online friends and start measuring, learning and reducing your Rubbish, Energy, Water and Travel. Sign up and create an EcoTeams online — invite friends, and start measuring and learning and reducing your usage.
You can sign up online now and get started gathering your team together.
EcoTeams is one of my favourites, perhaps because I’ve been working on several releases of the EcoTeams website over the last couple of years. This latest version makes fully online EcoTeams easy, and support you a lot in taking measurements and inviting others to get involved.
Here are three ways to get started. I’ll do an update article in a few days with a few more online resources to have a look at, incluing using power saving plug adapter things, energy monitors and turning things off.
September 1, 2009
Great film. Please go and see it or put on a screening if you haven’t seen it already.
It puts the case for doing something to avoid a future climate disaster. But what can you practically do now? That’s the question that 10:10 answers. Reduce your carbon footprint 10% in 2010. Not that hard, just takes a small behaviour change or two and there you are, part of the (positive) future.
Sign up, take on the future and Do Something:
One of the actions you can take on as a part of you 10:10 action is to join an EcoTeam, to work with you community or group of friends to measure and reduce your energy, water, waste and travel in a small group working together. By measuring your resource use, and making your results visible, you get to see how you can change your behaviour. Doing this in community helps you make a change and feel good about it, by doing it together.
I spend most of my days building and enhancing the EcoTeams website and measurement and reporting tools, so I’ve seen it work and have seen the positive, carbon saving, money saving results that people get from it. 10% is achievable and worth doing. You save the planet and save money and feel good. Beat that.
February 28, 2009
Via YouTube, via Twitter, via WordPress… to you.
Participation culture, creativity & social change – by Prof David Gauntlett (Age: 37), Professor of Media and Communications, at University of Westminster, UK.
Reduce carbon emissions by 90% by 2030 (or sooner)? How are we going to do that!!? David Gauntlett says, through encouraging more creativity in education and everyday life.
By moving from a “sit back and be told culture” (ie. school) to a “making and doing / connection” culture (assisted by web 2.0 participation and mass creativity).
Richard Sennett’s wonderful book The Craftsman is also referenced.
I’m with them all the way…
But will we have the guts to offer our Bea (8) the South Down’s Learning Centre rather than mainstream factory-style high school, or maybe the local high is not as bad as it might seem…
Ahh – the personal and the political. But back to packing… we’ve got some carbon to burn (sigh). Train next time…
More from David Gauntlett here and here.
February 10, 2009
Google.org, the philanthropic arm of Google, has today announced Google PowerMeter, a tool that will take energy consumption data from smart household energy meters and make the data available and easy to understand.
This will be very useful to bring social energy measurement alive, where you and I can compare our energy use and work out how to reduce it. It helps that Google.org are also pushing for free and open access to energy data for consumers. This from their December submission to Californian energy regulators:
Accordingly, Google urges the Commission to include the following principles in its smart grid policy, discussed in greater detail below:
- Consumers should have direct access to real-time electricity usage information.
- Electricity usage information should be freely available to consumers.
- Electricity usage data should be made available in a standardized, open format, freely available to third-parties with permission from the consumer.
Freely available, standardised, open access to real-time energy data. Once consumers have that, they can close the loop and easily reduce consumption.
The Google PowerMeter looks like access to smart meter billing information placed into some energy visualizations tools, and what also looks like some detection of the signature of particular appliances energy use.
Here’s an introductory video:
That all looks very cool.
The part that really interests me is that this gives a big push forward for open access to energy data, which then allow a whole ecosystem of tools and applications to develop to aid people in reducing their energy consumption, CO2 emissions, and money spent on energy.
Once we can make these energy measurements available, we can make them social, compare with each other, learn and save energy.
For a long time the big energy industries haven’t been too interested in opening up and giving us information, especially real-time information.
Let’s hope PowerMeter comes out of testing soon, and we get to see it operating here in the UK. And let’s get these open standards up and running ASAP. We’ve got a lot of measuring to do and changes to make to bring our energy consumption down.
February 9, 2009
You may recall news stories last month claiming that a google search results in 7g of CO2 emissions. This story resulted in a storm of comment and reporting, a clarification from google (0.2g per search), and somewhat of a clarification from the original study’s author. But all the resulting hoo har goes to show:
- The original claim was woefully unclear as reported
- Releasing research headlines without the research is troublesome and results in misunderstandings
- We’ll need to get a lot better at identifying what we are actually measuring when talking energy and CO2
I want to break this story down and inject some facts in, and hopefully we’ll learn something in the process.
So, starting at the beginning:
The Sunday Times reported on January 11 that a Google search produced about 7g of CO2. In their words:
Performing two Google searches from a desktop computer can generate about the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle for a cup of tea, according to new research.
While millions of people tap into Google without considering the environment, a typical search generates about 7g of CO2 Boiling a kettle generates about 15g.
Now, you’d hope the rest of the article would go on to clarify this a bit. That 7g per search. What does that include? Where are the boundaries drawn around what a search is? Not explained. So, that get left to indivudual interpretation and that’s where this sort of measurement and claim gets messy and there is a resulting storm of voices claiming This and That.
Google quickly posted a blog post and said that the energy required by Google’s servers to handle one search is 0.2g CO2.
Supposedly measuring the same thing, but we have over an order of magnitude difference? This comes down to what is actually being measured, as later clarifications revealed.
The original 7g of CO2 per search was actually made up from several searches and a few minutes of time sitting at a PC, and it included the energy of the PC used to start the search, not just Google’s servers. Here’s the Jan 16 clarification by The Times:
A report about online energy consumption (Google and you’ll damage the planet, Jan 11) said that “performing two Google searches from a desktop computer can generate about the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle” or about 7g of CO2 per search. We are happy to make clear that this does not refer to a one-hit Google search taking less than a second, which Google says produces about 0.2g of CO2, a figure we accept. In the article, we were referring to a Google search that may involve several attempts to find the object being sought and that may last for several minutes. Various experts put forward carbon emission estimates for such a search of 1g-10g depending on the time involved and the equipment used
Bingo. That’s the detail we originally needed. It ain’t about Google’s servers or the search itself, but about you sitting down in front of a foot-warming PC with a big, bright screen and tapping away for a bit trying to find something out. And we now have a range of 1g to 10g depending on circumstances.
So, the mention of Google at all in the story is pretty spurious, they claim 0.2g for their part of the search, the rest is elsewhere. A more correct statement could to be something like… “Using a PC and the Internet produces CO2 at the rate of between 1 and 10g CO2 per few minutes depending on your computer setup and what you are doing” (or something like that, please don’t quote this statement).
Basically, the Sunday Times got it wrong. They did the classic lazy blame-somebody-else story, blaming the CO2 on Google, when it is really much more about a home PC and how it is used, and the rest of the Internet equipment used to move all that data around.
One more quote, from a followup article from TechNewsWorld put it basically to rest:
One problem: the study’s author, Harvard University physicist Alex Wissner-Gross, says he never mentions Google in the study. “For some reason, in their story on the study, the Times had an ax to grind with Google,” Wissner-Gross told TechNewsWorld. “Our work has nothing to do with Google. Our focus was exclusively on the Web overall, and we found that it takes on average about 20 milligrams of CO2 per second to visit a Web site.”
And the example involving tea kettles? “They did that. I have no idea where they got those statistics,” Wissner-Gross said.
An average 0.02g of CO2 per second. That’s 1.2g per minute, or 72g CO2 per hour.
Contrast that to driving your car, which likely produces 200g CO2 per km or more. Drive 1km, or browse the net for nearly three hours?
February 3, 2009
Let the world change you and you can change the world.
(Deje el mundo cambiarle y usted puede cambiar el mundo.)
– Che Guevara
In this post, I (Graeme) will talk a bit about my past, and how that rather neatly scaffolds the future. How the world has changed me and how that helps me move on to change the world. This is part storytelling, part announcement.
First, the announcement:
I’m going to start intentionally focussing most of my blog postings here at Nodestone on CO2 and carbon calculators, carbon footprints, carbon pricing and offsets, and most importantly, social measurement and reporting to help reduce our CO2 production.
Note: Libby is still going to be posting on authenticity in blogging, social media, education etc, making it accessible for all — those topics that she’s working on out in the world.
Why blog about this stuff?
Because this is what I’m working on, as a consultant, architect and developer, bringing systems engineering, web tools and social media to bear on CO2 measurement and reporting.
And now the story:
I grew up a son of big oil. My parents met while both working for BP. My Dad, Don Sutherland, was Operations Superintendent for the BP Oil Refinery in Kwinana, Western Australia. He was, as I understand, responsible for the day to day operations of the place. We’d probably call that role COO these days. He had hundreds of people working under him to keep things safe and running smoothly. No easy job. Refining oil is a high-pressure, high-temperature, dangerous process that you have to get right, or Things Go Boom.
So, the family was, as we might say now, in the Energy business.
Fast forward to 1999.
I started using my skills as a systems engineer and software developer to build tools for energy management, in particular lighting automation for very large buildings Buildings like 60 story office blocks and massive stadiums. Lots of lights, massive energy use and energy costs, so managing the lighting to bring the energy usage down is a very good thing, and makes the sort of work I was doing quite valuable. We sold that product to a major control systems maker, and then I worked to refine that product for some years as their business grew. Energy was getting more expensive, and the return on investment kept improving. That product is now installed all over the place in massive public buildings (eg. Sydney Opera House, Wembley Stadium), saving energy day after day.
Amongst all of that, my partner Libby and I put a lot of effort into bringing the issues of sustainability and particularly sustainable business to the fore via the Sustainable Business Network we formed in 1999. We were a bit early there, the popular consciousness hadn’t really grok’d climate change at that point, but we met and talked with a lot of people who had understood sustainability and gained a lot of insight into what is was all about.
We moved back to the UK in 2006. And after spending a bit of time pricing derivatives in investment banking land (very useful when it comes to carbon pricing), I was back in energy conservation and reporting again, and have spent the last 18 months developing social tools for groups to measure and report together to cement behaviour change. And building more energy management tools. And building carbon and ROI calculators. I’ve been speaking at Barcamp about resilience, building a local solar-powered internet as an exercise in using less energy.
So, it seems like now is the time to take CO2 measurement and reporting to the next level. Let’s make it social. We’re entering a world where the amount we use does matter, we accept that. Fortunately we have the communications tools to make us more aware of what we are using. That supports resource conservation and, ultimately, could help turn the tide on climate change. The big goal is to reduce CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050. That’s been legislated. Which means businesses and households are going to have to get used to measuring, reporting on, and using less energy.
It all sounds do-able to me. Let’s make it happen.
January 11, 2009
If you haven’t checked it out yet, have a good look at Message in-a-Box “A toolkit for communicating your cause”.
It’s relevant to anyone that needs to communicate in life and work.
When Nodestone was commissioned by the Tactical Tech Collective earlier in the year to help bring it together, I faced a somewhat overwhelming task as you might imagine when you see it.
What is it? A rather large online resource for learning how to communicate better, to put it simply.
More specifically, it’s an international educational platform for people in NGOs and campaigning organisations that demonstrates how to use low-tech and high-tech tools and tactics to work on some of the hardest issues of our times.
We show you how to think strategically (about goals, resources and time) and then know which tools and tactics (eg. images / print / audio / video / internet / mobiles and media) to choose to get your message across.
Here’s how Tactical Tech describe it:
“…a set of strategic guides to using communications tools for social change, together with a suite of open source tools to get you making your own media. The toolkit is designed for small and medium-sized NGOs, advocates, and citizen journalists to help them create and distribute content for their advocacy efforts while exploring the constantly evolving world of campaigning and communications.”
The feedback has been excellent around the world. A much needed resource.
Here’s an example of how it works:
This section helps you find out how others have used images effectively and creatively. It helps you learn how to find, create, edit, share great images, with an emphasis on photographs, comics, maps and simple animated images.
Images add impact to stories, blog posts, websites, posters,brochures, email campaigns – whatever campaigning channels and tools you are using.
What do you need?
Essential: ideas, creativity, imagination, a strategy.
Extra: people to help, internet access, mobile phone and/or a camera (digital or other), source books/comics/cartoons collected from anywhere or commissioned.
Having worked in communications as a consultant, writer, activism and educator for (gosh!) over 20 years, it was a dream to be able to put these threads of life to good use. To make something practical and tangible.
Message-in-a-Box is about the power of PR being brought to the people who have historically had least access to it. Things were all explained in the simplest possible terms with examples and free software downloads. From human rights abuses to clean water – NGOs on little or no budget obviously need education and support. It’s an egalitarian Aussie’s delight.
In London, Botswana or Mumbai, Message-in-a-Box is now available for free, 24/7. A print version with DVD software is also being distributed. It’s actually a good resource for anyone a clear (hopefully) perspective on getting your message across.
Along the way we got to massage the words and ideas of some great folk like Becky Faith, Dr Dan McQuillan and Heleana Quartey. Hopefully to first incarnation is already being put to some good use.
Once thing I’m hoping Tactical Tech do soon is to improve collaboration and “stickiness” on the site. Feedback, registration etc… Also the use of images and stills, sound and video clips to make the resource more visual and interactive – to practice what we preach!
Over the years we have increasingly worked on projects that pass positive screens for social / eco accountability. Put another way… that feel good. Like:
- widgets for TrickleStar and the BBC
- social carbon measurement for Global Action Plan
- edu-marketing for the Guerrand Hermes Foundation for Peace
- teaching blogging to communities and companies
- setting up The Big Love Gift Guide
- running a massive campaign for TV Turn Off Week.
But as long as you aren’t arms dealers, we can usually find or create some positive values in just about any project. Get in touch if you want to know how Nodestone can help you feel good about your work.
September 18, 2008
Watch it. Think. Act. It is as simple and as difficult as that. There is no other way.
Lovely piece of animation too ;-)
May 11, 2008
I picked up a Efergy real-time energy meter for £39.95 from Maplin. At this kind of price it finally seems worth it, and after bringing it home and quickly installing it, I’ve now got a sense of how much power the house uses. I’m very happy with it so far, easy to use and nice clear display. It sits in the kitchen.
With all the lights off and the fridge idling, there’s still a little over 100W needed to keep the place running, which is mad. That is going to be a bunch of plugpack transformers (wall warts) that are just making heat while doing nothing. More of those are going to get switched off now.
Turning on the kettle is a shock. I know the kettle is going to use up energy like mad, but watching the display go from 0.100 kW to 3.100 kW was more shocking than I expected.
We’ll see how it goes. I’m hoping this will give us all enough awareness to drop our consumption of electricity about 20%.