A 6 Part Model for Residents & Cities Working Together to Reduce Carbon

By Dean Berg, Founder, Path to a Green Home

After spending 25 years working for software and services companies, Dean decided in 2018 to shift his focus to the environment and climate action. Path to a Green Home was started in 2018 with the focus of helping cities to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in their residential sectors. In early 2020, Path to a Green Home’s software platform was chosen to participate in the 2020 Cleantech Open accelerator program for clean tech startups. Dean is an active participant in his local city’s Clean Energy Advisory Committee and has had the opportunity to speak at numerous events on the topic.

Sep 8, 2020 | Society | 0 comments

Studies have shown that the residential sector accounts for 60-85 percent of our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and that simple, individual lifestyle changes can reduce that footprint by 25-35 percent. Most of us know this, but why are we not acting on it? Because it’s hard to get people to change their behavior. The good news is that it’s not impossible, and is easier with the right approach.

Our six part model, called 3-2-1-GO!, is designed to meet this exact challenge. It is a comprehensive model that leverages behavior change science and financial rewards to fulfill the mission of reducing carbon emissions from the residential sector. It was developed pre-pandemic, but it has shown to be resilient in the face of the pandemic-changed social environment and even relieves some of the stressors that we’re dealing with as we try to find our way to a post-pandemic world.

For example, the model:

  • Distributes funding and resource requirements to lessen the burden on our stretched city budgets and staff
  • Provides residents with incentives to ‘buy local,’ hence, supporting local businesses that are eager to re-build after the shut down
  • Provides sustainability education and tools that can be of value to all populations, which is especially important at a time when inequalities across populations are being exposed and scrutinized
  • Leverages the fact that our lifestyles have taken an abrupt turn, and uses that major life shift as a springboard to long term behavioral change

The name 3-2-1-GO! is derived from the six components:

  • Integrating 3 participants (the residents, the local business community, and the municipality)
  • 2 programs (marketing and governance)
  • 1 product
  • With these 6 components, we can “GO for Green”

Components of 3-2-1-GO!

 

Residents

This is where the rubber hits the road. After all, the program is all about residential sustainability. As noted above, the model is designed to build upon the abrupt lifestyle shift that most of us have experienced since March 2020. It is designed to motivate all residents (renters and homeowners) to not only continue but to accelerate the shift to a more sustainable lifestyle.

According to the EAST behavioral change framework in the “Behavioral Change Tactics for Urban Challenges” report,

“Behavior is generally easier to change when habits are already disrupted, such as around major life events.”

So, how do we do this? We educate, engage, and motivate people to make sustainable lifestyle decisions and take action.

 “Humans are creatures of habit. We are also social creatures needing intimate interactions (trusting relationships) before acting upon any proposed changes.

Trusting social relationships and continued conversations with those who are leading the change are essential.

A model like 3-2-1-GO! that allows leaders to employ behavioral change strategies is essential for any social change movement to advance.”

— Thomas Sommerfield, PhD, LPC;
Supervising Clinician, CT Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services; Assistant Professor, U of Maryland in Europe graduate programs (2004-2014)

By understanding human habits and what motivates people to change, the 3-2-1-GO! model integrates various triggers to help shift behavior. These triggers include: make it easy, make it fun, make it personal, make it social, make it competitive, and make it rewarding.

In terms of a reward system, nothing speaks louder than a financial reward. This is where the local business community, ideally, a local green business community, becomes a key component.

Local Business Community

Everyone likes a financial reward, so we’re rewarding residents that make positive lifestyle decisions with tangible, financial rewards from our local business community. This is good on at least three levels:

  1. Residents get a tangible financial benefit, instead of just a pat on the back
  2. Residents are rewarded for making the decision to buy local, which reduces their carbon footprint
  3. It’s good for the local business community; a community that is trying to rebuild after Covid-19 shutdowns

This reward system is provided by the local business community, which can include the chamber of commerce, the green business network, the sustainable business network, and others.

“Our businesses are anxious to open their doors and to continue to serve their community as they did before. They are looking for competitive advantages and are especially interested in being able to make sustainable green claims. In turn, Certified Green Businesses are especially excited about the opportunity to serve people that share their same belief in sustainability. We’re excited about programs, like the 3-2-1-GO! model, that can track and reward consumer behavior on this front.”

Jo Fleming, Executive Director, California Green Business Network.

In a nutshell, residents earn points by making sustainable lifestyle choices that can then be redeemed for discounts at their favorite local businesses.

Municipality

The third primary stakeholder in this model is the municipality, or the City. The City is a big part of setting overall goals, strategy, approach, and messaging for the 3-2-1 GO! program. For many cities, much of the framework already exists in the form of a climate action plan. As part of the Governance program outlined below, the City is the recipient of data from our app. This data is key for understanding which programs are working and not working, how programs are received in the various populations, and for reporting on and communicating emission reductions that have been achieved as a result of their planning.

Our model focuses on minimizing the time and money required from the City, while still providing governance and delivering data for program and initiative analysis.

Marketing Program

As with any public outreach campaign, a solid marketing strategy is critical to its success. This is where a ‘steering committee’ and a local volunteer team comes in, both of which free up time for the municipality. Ideally, the steering committee and the local volunteer teams would be supported or led by local economic development groups or environmental groups.

Governance Program

Like other social programs, a strong governance program is needed to maintain course and to ensure that objectives are met. We may find that the participants in the governance team differ from community to community, but the model will not. In many communities, the participants will be the same that make up the steering committee of the 3-2-1-GO! model. The governance program is responsible for setting goals and objectives, determining KPI’s, measurement and reporting on data, and communications with the public.

Product

Lastly, this all relies on a software platform that includes a mobile app as the residential touch point. The mobile app is the most effective tool to connect with and engage the individuals that we’re asking to make lifestyle decisions and changes. The software platform provides personalization, the motivational features mentioned above, and organized data collection and reporting. On top of that, using an app can make the program more fun and interactive for users, by adding gamification.

 

Want to learn more? Please reach out to me below. We’d love to share more detail, get your input, and discuss potential collaborations and pilot projects. Whether you are a municipality, a local volunteer group, an economic development group, an environmental group, or local business network, we’re interested in engaging with others who share our values.

Please contact us via the form below:

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