The Cool Communities pilot 2013-2014 results are in! Read the report to find out how volunteers got on testing out the UK version handbook. It has been a really valuable learning experience and we are busy adapting the content and process for the next phase. 

Cool Communities is a behavioural change programme which has been adapted from a successful programme created in the US by David Gershon, an expert on this subject. It is based on small groups of people working together to reduce their carbon footprint, using a handbook that offers a menu of achievable changes in lifestyle, habits and community actions that would reduce people's use of energy and resources.

Winchester Action on Climate Change (WinACC) has adapted the handbook so that it is up-to-date and relevant for the UK population. In 2013 Winchester City Council commissioned WinACC to carry out a pilot project of the Cool Communities approach as a proof of concept in the Winchester District. Leaders were recruited in a variety of ways and 13 EcoGroups set up in and around the Winchester District between May 2013 and January 2014.

Carbon reduction and evaluation data were collected via leader and participant evaluation forms. Quantitative data was analysed to identify the top and average responses and qualitative data was analysed via pattern matching and then summarised into broad categories.

The average carbon emission reduction by the participant households was 1.5 tonnes.  Of the 13 EcoGroups created, ten (49 participants) completed at least two meetings.

The conclusion is that the programme is worth pursuing, subject to these recommendations:

  1. Recruitment from personal friends does not work as this is viewed as a primarily social event. Recruitment works best by direct face to face contact either by neighbours or people within membership organisations. Leaders must be willing to form groups from their own neighbourhood if possible; if not, from people with whom they are in a community of interest (such as a society).
  2. Training for group leaders needs to be developed, focussing on the recruitment approach (including the script) and how to managed and monitor their group members.
  3. Introductory meetings are essential to reduce participant drop out.
  4. The leaders should have more proactive support while their EcoGroup is running.
  5. The handbook needs to be less wordy, more user friendly, logical and visually appealing.