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Competition to inspiration: getting people going green

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What are the factors that push us in a sustainable direction? This is pretty central to everything we and other organisations in similar fields do. What’s well known is that good examples and endorsements are always very handy indeed.

There’s of course the ‘nudge’ effect, and we’ve looked at the power of that at a neighbourly level. More recently, our survey on smart meters showed how such a compare and contrast approach might work in practice.

But it’s not just with individuals and households that change needs to take root. There are businesses, and of course the major power brokers and decision makers to think of too, and the larger infrastructural decisions on the table that need to be pushed through.

So how about a touch of glamour, comradeship, and exclusiveness? The energy ministers of ten countries, including the UK, have formed the ‘Renewables Club’, which is intended to be a sort of elite for the good guys – or at least those who intend to be. Peter Altmaier, Germany’s environment minister, explains:

As members of the Club we aim to lead by example. The Renewables Club is a political initiative of pioneering countries that are united by an important goal: a worldwide transformation of the energy system.”

With the likes of China and India part of the ten as well as Germany and the UK, there’s certainly some promise that others will want in. But for something a little more universal in terms of bringing opinion towards the sustainable way, how about the public backing of a celebrity, moreover, one with a touch of business cred?

Well, Sir Alan Sugar has recently come out strongly in favour of a firm electricity decarbonisation target, saying: “This country needs jobs, and the renewable industry could help unlock our crippled manufacturing sector.” More straight-talking celebrity sense can be found coming from Tommy Walsh, who recently launched Solent’s local Green Deal scheme.

But maybe all this overlooks the fact that getting people to change their ways is just a matter of simple politeness. Norfolk County Council has claimed good results in getting its employees engaged in energy-saving actions by opting for positives rather than prohibitions, and thanks where they’re due for the part those changing their behaviours have played. They’ve also been getting their staff involved in actually suggesting what should be done in terms of carbon reduction.

Being acknowledged and credited for doing some good, and being heard out if you’ve got a good idea are things that cut across the needs of individuals, organisations and governments. Above all else, sustainability has to have a friendly face.

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

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