Imagine a community where we swap and share with each other, rather than sending things to landfill, where we actively support local businesses who do the right thing, where we grow our own veggies, get outdoors more often, and really appreciate and care for our possessions and our homes. That's what sustainable living looks like, and The Neighbourhood Effect is helping us all to to get there.
What is the neighbourhood effect?
The Neighbourhood Effect is a new Canberra-based social enterprise. We use technology and behavioural science to make local, green living easy.
You might not know that when you trace emissions back through supply chains, households like ours are causing over 60% of global carbon emissions through what we buy, the waste we create and the energy we use.
Millions of Australians care about climate change and sustainability, but find changing our lifestyles difficult. Research shows we feel overloaded and we're confused about whether our choices make a difference.
So we're building a smartphone application and website that make it convenient, financially rewarding, fun and social for you to reduce your carbon footprint and live more sustainably.
You complete a quick survey and then we tailor our suggestions to suit your preferences, lifestyle and household. These cover the areas of waste, energy, food, transport, water and consumer goods.
We show you what's most impactful for you and we connect you with local eco-friendly products, services and community initiatives, while our behavioural science design helps you to adopt green habits.
You also get a breakdown of your carbon footprint. You can track your impact, and you can see the impact your community is creating along with actions that are popular with your friends and neighbours. Plus, we're building a feature that allows you to search for and set up neighbourhood sustainability initiatives like clothing swaps, shared tool sheds and communal veggie patches.
The Neighbourhood Effect is the winner of the 2017 Allens Social Innovation competition, and a national finalist and runner-up in the 2017 Climate Launchpad competition for innovative solutions to climate change. We've already built a prototype app and website and launched an ACT-wide pilot with the support of the ACT government.
Now we're aiming to raise $40,000 through ING's DreamStarter to build our full digital platform. But we need your help to make this a reality.
Who is behind the neighbourhood effect?
Lily Dempster is a 29-year old climate activist from Canberra and the CEO and Founder of The Neighbourhood Effect. Lily was formerly GetUp's Market Impact Director, where she ran clean energy consumer campaigns and helped 4000 Australians purchase GreenPower and 13,000 people switch to a carbon neutral electricity retailer. These campaigns had an impact equivalent to taking 50,000 cars off the road for a year and adding 2MW of additional renewable power to the electricity grid. The GreenPower campaign only ran for four months, but still had double the impact of a community solar farm Lily had worked on that took 5 years to get off the ground.
From running these campaigns, Lily realised that when we act together, our consumer choices can have a very rapid and tangible impact.
Lily has a background in public policy, advocacy and consulting, and has studied law, social science, sustainability and renewable energy technology engineering. She is also a Foundation for Young Australians Young Social Pioneer for 2017.
Lily is supported by a team of volunteers and advisors. These include Tom Duck, a former sustainability consultant with a background in Energy Studies and Commerce, the SheStarts team at Blue Chilli, who consist of user interface designers and mobile app and web developers, and Professor Bob Slonim, the research director of PM&C's behavioural economics unit.
Why should you support the neighbourhood effect?
This initiative is helping to solve the hard problem of behaviour change, which is a crucial piece of the puzzle when it comes to climate change mitigation.
From using our platform, community members will experience the co-benefits associated with environmentally-friendly lifestyles:
- Financial savings through greater resource efficiency, for example by participating in local sharing and gift economies, reducing waste, growing vegetables and shrinking electricity, gas and water consumption;
- Increased community connections and improved psychological wellbeing;
- Improved fitness and physical health, by being assisted to build cycling and walking into daily and weekly routines;
- A sense of pride and empowerment from successfully reducing personal environmental impacts; and
- Easier access to local, climate-friendly products, services and community initiatives and the capacity to help these initiatives grow.
The potential climate impact of this idea is also significant. If we reach 150,000 people (noting that this is just over 3% of the 4 million Australian "conscious consumers" who care deeply about climate change and sustainability), and assuming they're able to reduce their carbon footprints by just a quarter on average through The Neighbourhood Effect, this amounts to taking 145,000 cars off the road every year.
The term 'neighbourhood effect' loosely describes the phenomenon that many of our behaviours are socially contagious. Our behaviour changes based on our environment and our peers. We're more likely to change our diets and exercise routines if those around us do and we're much more likely to put solar panels on our roof if our neighbours have them, irrespective of things like voter preference. If we each start making small changes in our own lives to reduce our waste, energy use and household consumption, this has a flow-on effect. Acting together, we can have a rapid impact, and by transforming ourselves, we start to transform our communities for the better.
How will we use your donation?
We've already received grant funding to support the design and coding of the platform. Now we need an additional $25,000 in order to develop and launch the full version of our mobile application and website, and to give it the best chance of success. In particular, we need funding to help us incorporate a rigorous carbon footprint calculator and step-by-step video guides for suggested green actions into our platform.
From our user research and testing of our website prototype, we know that these two features are essential in order to motivate and engage people enough for them to carry out suggested actions and to keep using the platform to change their lifestyles.
- People find it highly motivating to know the specific impacts and benefits of their choices. General information about environmental benefits isn't enough and doesn't give people that sense of reassurance and self efficacy that their actions are making a real difference. A rigorous carbon calculator model will also allow us to give people a breakdown of their own emissions profile, tell them which activities are likely to be most impactful for them personally, and show people the collective impacts that their communities are having.
- At the same time, we know that visually demonstrating certain behaviours and teaching sustainability skills through short, sharp, engaging videos, made for an Australian audience, will help to remove barriers to decision-making and increase the likelihood that users will adopt suggested actions. Without this content, the platform will be missing a key component that makes it easier for people to adopt new green habits.
- $14,000.00 to develop our customisable carbon footprint calculator, including modelling based on consumption-based carbon accounting and life cycle analysis, and quantification of the environmental benefits of suggested actions (on a per action and annual basis)
- $9500.00 to produce short, step-by-step in-house video guides to break down the more complicated sustainable behaviours suggested on the platform, including draught proofing, LED lighting, DIY cleaning products and toiletries to eliminate plastic waste, indoor composting, indoor and outdoor herb gardens and setting up shared community tool sheds and veggie patches.
- $1500.00 to pay for the purchase and postage of all campaign rewards.
In addition to the budget items outlined above, if we are able to raise an additional $15,000 (taking our total raised to $ 40,000 - how fantastic would that be!), we will:
- Spend $4,000 on graphic user interface design of the carbon calculator - to make it as engaging and user-friendly as possible and so it can integrate seamlessly into our digital platform.
- Spend $9,000 conducting mapping work and research into environmentally-friendly Australian products, services and community initiatives available in inner city Melbourne and inner city Sydney, so we can launch our platform in both of those locations in 2019.
Our dream is to accrue the same number of users as FitBit. If these 38 million people reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by just a quarter on average through our platform (which really isn't much in terms of individual changes in behaviour), then this would equate to shutting down 50 coal-fired power stations every year.
Through our platform, we want to demonstrate that it is both achievable and affordable for those of us in developed economies to reduce our carbon emissions en masse, to grow the market share of climate-friendly businesses and to improve our wellbeing in the process.
- 60% of global carbon emissions are caused by households, with the majority coming from households in developed economies. See e.g. D. Ivanova et al (2016), Environmental Impact Assessment of Household Consumption, Journal of Industrial Ecology.
- If we had the same number of active users as FitBit (38 million) and they reduced their carbon footprints by a quarter through our platform, this would equate to shutting down 50 coal-fired power stations every year: This figure takes the average Australian or US consumer's annual carbon footprint of 18 tonnes of CO2e as the baseline. The equivalency for this emissions figure was calculated using the US EPA's online greenhouse gas equivalencies calculator.