My first Carbon conversation group had their last meeting a couple of weeks ago. The last meeting of the course is even more relaxed than the other sessions. It's deliberately designed as a chance to kick-back, natter and swap stories.
The group has the chance to decide whether they'd like to continue meeting, or to decide that it is time to go it alone.
We chose to meet in a Norwich café. Not everybody could make it, but one person emailed before-hand to talk about the changes they'd made as a result of the course. Those changes amazed me. Digging up the lawn for growing veg. Buying a bicycle. Getting a smart meter and using it to work out she'd cut her energy use by 7% since starting the course. Putting her name down on a waiting list for an allotment which she planned to share with a family member. Then came the real big one: re-evaluating her work/life balance with a view to working less: cutting down on commuting, spending less money, having more time to spend with loved ones. Less carbon, more fun.
I shared her successes with the rest of the group, feeling genuinely touched to have been part of the process of facilitating these changes. I couldn't get over how BIG a thing it is to go on a course and re-evaluate the whole of the way you run your life as a result. A husband and wife who'd also done the course shared a glance and then spoke together: "So have we." We all looked at them in surprise and they explained. "We've both asked to go part time. We listened in the session which related disposable income to carbon emissions, and decided the next way we could cut our emissions would be to cut our income." (I have to add here that I know the couple have already made lots of changes to their house, their means of transport etc, so the investments in these areas have already been made).
That's nearly half the group (and the other facilitator too!) reducing their work hours voluntarily to change their lifestyle and reduce their emissions. Everyone who didn't already have a bike has bought one, and those with old bikes have dug them out of storage and had them fixed up.
One woman, starting with a heavy Primark habit has gone on a 6 month buying-diet: pledging to buy no clothes, make-up or jewellery for 6 months. A colleague who shares her office has made a sign which she hold up when anyone talks about buying anything. The sign reads:
Can you afford it?
Do you need it?
Will you use it?