The full report can be read in Swedish at the bottom of the page. Here is an english summary:
In the pilot project ”BeChange – Luleå - carbon emission dieting with climate therapy”, 21 participants from the city of Luleå, in northern Sweden, spent nine months reducing the carbon emissions produced from their individual lifestyles.
Mental coaching (”climate therapy”) and direct measures to strategically reduce lifestyle induced carbon dioxide emissions (”carbon emission dieting”) are both part of the BeChange method, focusing on the three largest emission sources from people in their every day lives - ”transportation, food and housing”.
The project successfully reached all its targets, with the participants reducing their carbon emissions by five tonnes per person (around 50 %), while their sense of hope around the possibility of creating a sustainable world increased by 30 %, their levels of climate related anxiety decreased by 24 % and they reported a subjective increase in their quality of life.
BeChange is a social innovation by Stina Sundqvist, Omställningsverket and Ann Murugan, Earth, owners of the method. BeChange’s approach stands unique in the world, using both inner mental tools and outer tools of personalised, practical climate consulting that allows individuals to create a climate smart lifestyle while simultaneously having fun and increasing their sense of wellbeing.
The participants took part in the project on their own initiative, after finding out about it mainly through Facebook. This implies that compared to the average person, the participants may have had a higher interest in and motivation for transitioning to a sustainable lifestyle. By global standards they all had a high-carbon lifestyle when entering the project.
During the program, two different measuring tools were used to capture 1) changes in participants' CO₂ emission levels, and 2) changes in levels of climate anxiety and sense of hope about the world's environmental challenges.
The tool for calculating and measuring concrete changes in CO₂ weight per year, was the free web based tool Klimatkontot (www.klimatkontot.se).
Mental changes were measured using a self assessment tool developed for the BeChange project by Ann Murugan (Earth), as no standardised instrument existed.
Measures were made at the start of the program (baseline values), during the program, at the end of the program, and also one year after the program ended.
The baseline values were taken as points of departure in the work with the participants’ ”carbon emission dieting” and ”climate therapy”.
Regarding the ”carbon emission dieting”, the participants received concrete advice individually and in groups, around how they could transition to a low CO₂ emitting lifestyle.
”Climate therapy” was added to support the participants reach their targets, through optimistic and joyful top performance. It also aimed to free the participants from climate anxiety and increased their sense of hopefulness and agency around environmental challenges, thereby contributing to increased mental quality of life.
The program mixed theoretical lectures and individual coaching sessions, with study circle groups where concrete solutions could be tried out in practice and where participants could share their thoughts and feelings around progress and setbacks with each other, and spread knowledge and tips among each other. The mental tools helped the participants move from a state of anxiety around the environmental challenges of the world, to a sense of hope and an optimistic future vision.
During the consulting, we focused on getting the following type of solutions into the participants’ plans, in the following order:
1. Easily implementable solutions that resulted in major reductions of CO₂ emissions.
2. Easily implementable solutions that resulted in minor reductions of CO₂ emissions.
3. Solutions that were less simple to implement, but had had major impact on CO₂ emissions.
As a result, the focus areas for the participants were typically to shift to more of low-emission transportation, to more of a plant-based diet while reducing meat consumption, and to switch to renewable energy for their homes. Outside of BeChange’s main focus areas (transportation, food and housing) the participants also chose to reduce wasteful consumption.
BeChange shows that it is possible for motivated individuals with a high-carbon lifestyle to halve their carbon emissions in a single year while increasing their sense of life quality, and that all this can be done in an easy and fun way. It also shows that ripple effects to family members are likely, partly through inspiration, and partly automatically as for instance a shift to renewable energy reduces emissions for all household members.
Although based on a small sample of 21 individuals, we believe meaningful conclusions can be drawn from our data, as all the participants achieved similar results with only minor variations, and as their CO₂ reductions remained even a year after the program ended.
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