By taking simple measures, communities can cut their carbon foot print. The first step may be a very small, simple one. The trick is to establish a new service, a bit like the Post Office, that people can use to help them. The vision is to build upon each step taken, encouraging progress and providing a succession of further steps, until the whole community finds that it is on a journey to zero-carbon living.

This was the idea behind Lightfoot’s Household Energy Service (better known as HES) which was started in 2007, with funding from the UK government’s climate change initiative – Tomorrow’s Climate: Today’s Challenge.

Improving energy efficiency in the home is an affordable and effective way to cut carbon. But how, the HES team asked, could a local project involve all kinds of people, turning individual actions into significant collective action, commensurate with the enormity of climate change?

DSCF2605Design that involves people

When all kinds of people in a community get involved this can be a real driver for change. The HES team decided to focus on their own home towns – and to get friends and neighbours involved by offering a FREE household energy survey.

The survey itself had to capture precise and measurable details of energy use in each household – the base line – presenting a picture that would enable a professional Energy Officer to make an assessment and offer a program of energy saving recommendations.

The team decided to train local volunteers to carry out surveys – helping to make the process easier for everybody, whilst keeping it friendly and accessible. DSCF2606Each completed survey went to a HES Energy Officer, who prepared a tailored report with recommendations for the household.

The idea was to start with easy things and just keep the momentum going through a membership scheme. Energy advice was ongoing for participating households , including a regular newsletter, detailing special deals and grants available for home/energy improvements and advice on everything from insulating lofts to greener transport options and switching to renewable energy supplies. There were a broad range of options so that everybody would feel they were making a positive contribution – from the day they first stopped overfilling the kettle.

Each idea was promoted with positivity and humour and a focus on ‘people-stories’ –  people in the community who were shifting to clever technologies and simple ideas to change their energy use.DSCF2617At each stage of interaction, Key Performance Indicators provided the checks and balances, ensuring that whilst this was a community led enterprise, growing from the roots up, it was operated professionally at every stage.

Crunching the Numbers

What began as a little scheme,  expanded rapidly across five towns. By 2010, hundreds of homes across the Marches were involved, with local people in each location taking a key role in developing the project. HES was able to employ a professional energy team as well as a network of local coordinators managing volunteer groups around the region. This led to success for HES when the team won joint first place in the National Endowment for Science and Technology Awards’ Big Green Challenge:

In a follow up survey in 2010, energy officers found that HES clients were saving an average of 29% in terms of carbon emissions (study based on 1,000 clients), whilst the shift was also creating  a new customer base for builders, contractors, renewable energy suppliers and other ‘green’ businesses in the region.


Reflections Part II to follow.  For more info about this and/or other subject covered in the blog, link here .





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