Improving practices rather than proving dough

Published: 30 October 2014 at 12:02

Anglia Ruskin workshop looks at changes needed to reduce energy consumption

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Dr Chris Foulds will explain how we need to change practices, rather than simply change technology, during a free public workshop to examine our carbon footprint.  In particular, he will discuss how changing our practices is not an easy thing to do.

During the event in Cambridge on Wednesday, 5 November, Dr Foulds, a member of Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustainability Institute, will discuss his research, which looks at everyday practices and how they underpin our energy consumption and resulting carbon emissions.

He argues that whilst significant changes are necessary if the UK is to meet its target of an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050, making these changes will be very difficult.

As part of his study Dr Foulds met a family living in an energy-saving home with a highly-efficient heating system, who purposely turned their heating on during hot summer days.  When questioned why, it turned out that they were passionate about baking bread and found that the surface of their boiler was perfect for proving the dough.

He also met a householder who had water-saving spray taps that were much appreciated for the quality of the bubbles they created when filling a bath.  Consequently, the householder had more baths than before they had the taps – negating any water savings.

Dr Foulds said:

“Sustainability research and policy initiatives need to focus more on the practices underlying how and why we consume resources rather than the technology.
“It’s increasingly being recognised that people aren’t pushed and pulled at the whim of technologies, nor does what people think always direct how people actually act.”

People attending the workshop, which is part of the Economic and Social Research Council’s flagship annual Festival of Social Science, will be shown how to calculate their own carbon footprint.

In 2009, domestic buildings were responsible for 40% of the UK’s energy use.  According to government statistics, turning down a thermostat from 19c to 18c could cut heating bills by 13%, while delaying putting on the heating from October to November could save us on average 5.5%.

Dr Foulds added:

“If the Government are to protect certain sectors of the economy and society, such as flying, then we need other sectors such as housing to be almost ‘zero carbon’ but this ‘zero carbon’ status cannot be achieved by energy-efficient or renewable technology alone.
“Therefore we need to deeply consider, and indeed seek to change, how our everyday lives are responsible for the ever-increasing energy demand.”

The ‘Everyday sustainability: Negotiating carbon footprints’ workshop will run from 6pm-7.30pm on 5 November on Anglia Ruskin’s Cambridge campus.   For further information or to reserve your place, please email