Follow the progress of the project through our blog of events. The most recent entries are displayed below.
To read past entries visit our blog site at http://blogs.kingston.ac.uk/sloc/
23 Nov 2009
The engagement process has now been in place for nearly 8 months and we have talked directly to more than 1500 elderly people about how they can improve their sustainable living practices. Many more have been reached through press articles and the website. There was a lot of interest and questions about replacing boilers & heating systems, energy efficient light bulbs, availability of funding and recycling. We have also been gathering feedback from people who have attended our sessions to measure any changes that they have made in their lives since they attended the events. This was done through a short telephone questionnaire asked of participants who volunteered their contact details. 76% of the people we have got back in touch with have thought about the issues raised during the event in the time that has passed. 61% have changed something in their lives to become more sustainable, and 38% already have an idea of something else they will be changing in the future. These changes have sometimes been day to day actions, for example recycling more, being more careful about turning off lights, or replacing broken bulbs with energy saving alternatives. There has also been some one off changes such as replacing boilers, installing loft insulation, getting a water butt to collect rainwater for use in the garden, and switching to a green energy supplier. Many people have said that though they are generally very careful in their lives the events they attended gave them new ideas or encouraged them to have a closer look at some of the decisions they make. Everyone we have heard back from found the sessions interesting and enjoyable.
Another positive result is that 60% of the people we have spoken to have been talking about the issues with friends and family and making suggestions as to useful actions that could be taken. Some session attendees have even gone on to form Green Champion Clubs etc. after attending the events. It is good to know that the information we provided is spreading to more people than we have been able to speak to directly, allowing even more people to make informed choices on the options that are available to them. The project has been commended for its ‘Good simple communication methods, reaching out to the community and having an impact on changing behaviour’ and has been nominated for a ‘Green Guardian award 2009’.
Progress so far
8 Sep 2009
We are three months into our engagement process and have been very busy. We have led 5 discussion groups, provided 8 information stands/drop in sessions as well as giving 15 talks to different groups of older people across London. As promised we have been providing information when needed but also have heard some very varied opinions on sustainability as well as some wonderful memories from the last (in some cases) 90 years.
Many of the people we have been speaking to have experienced rationing during the wars and the energy shortage in the 1970s and have maintained these non-wasteful habits throughout their lives. There seemed to be genuine concern among the people we have spoken to about the changes they have seen in their surrounding environment and how wasteful we are as a population these days.
There seems to be a desire to see big businesses do more, either through their own initiative or due to the government stepping in. The people we have spoken to are in general happy to do everything they can but feel let down in their efforts to use less energy when they see high rise offices lit from top to bottom even when the working day has ended, and frustrated by all the mounds of food packaging they are forced to buy in supermarkets. Recycling is also something that came up in conversations at almost every event. People are willing to use the system but would like it to be better organised in the number of vans that need to come round to do the collections and also in continuity across local boroughs about what can be collected. There have been discussions about clear universal signs and symbols on packaging that communicate disposal messages easily, e.g. symbols for biodegradable products, recyclable products and even potentially colour coding of different types of plastics. Generally people want a clear, consistent message to help them to know what to do for the best and this stretches across many of the sustainability issues from recycling to house adaptation.
We will be forwarding all the relevant information to government, other authorities and stake holders who are involved with providing care and services to the older community for them to follow up and take action where possible. We’d like to thank everyone we have spoken to so far for their interest in the topic, willingness to share their opinions with us and also for all their helpful suggestions of things to try. Katherine is now measuring her 4 inches of bath water with her fingers and investigating some tasty new recipes to help her use up any leftover food.
Starting the project
21 Jul 2009
The project started with a kick off meeting where all related parties were present. Initially the project envisaged the engagement to begin straight away once all the information and literature had been produced. However, the collaborators advised that it would be best to find out from the older community ‘what type of information they need’ and ‘in what format’. It was decided to conduct a number of focus groups and five were held to gather information about what is important to this age group in terms of sustainability and promoting sustainable living. Initially there was difficulty in understanding the word ‘Sustainability’. We quoted the well accepted definition in relation to sustainability “meeting the needs of today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs” but tried to explain as simply as possible that it is to be kinder to the environment, reuse, recycle, reduce waste & save energy.
Generally the older community have lived sustainably over the years. They have survived wars, grown their own produce, reused and recycled as much as they could because it is part of their lives, not because the government says so. Therefore it must be made clear that this project is not to lecture or teach this wise community about sustainability but to be a vehicle to the vast amount of information out there about improved energy saving techniques, home adaption methods, grants and support available to deliver these improvements. The 65+ have to survive with their limited pension and fuel poverty (where a disproportionate amount of the income is spend on fuel to heat your home) has become a major problem in the UK.
The media is inundated with information and initiatives about climate change but real change will only come about if such initiatives are supported by a change in behaviour amongst households. There must be greater understanding of the potential problems that climate change could pose, in terms of extreme weather conditions, rising fuel costs etc. especially to vulnerable groups. We see engaging the older community in this debate by talking to them, listening and finding out their views and contributions, conducting seminars and discussion groups as the way forward. With the help and support of our collaborators; AgeConcern, Friend of the Elderly and The Energy Saving Trust we are reaching as many as we can.