1500 people took part in Dacorum’s online Sustainability Survey this summer, which investigated how people’s behaviours changed during the spring lockdown and how we could learn from this moving forwards.
During July and August, Dacorum Borough Council ran a 6-week sustainability survey to help understand how certain behaviours within Dacorum changed as a result of the safety measures brought about by COVID-19.
Leader of the Council, Councillor Andrew Williams, said: ‘Several of the lifestyle changes that people made are also essential for helping to tackle the Climate Emergency. We wanted to understand how we can positively embrace these changes so that instead of going ‘back to normal’, we move forwards to a better, greener future.’
The survey was broken down into several key areas:
Transport is the largest emissions sector in the UK – responsible for over a quarter of the UK’s greenhouse gases. Climate targets require a reduction in car use by between 20%-60%.
9 out of 10 people said they want to see fewer cars on roads in the future. The three most important benefits to them were air quality (65%), less emissions due to the Climate Emergency (55%) and quieter more peaceful roads (51%). When asked to provide additional comments, 43% mentioned the positive impacts they had witnessed on local wildlife.
A third of participants cycled more over lockdown. The majority of people stated their reasons as ‘exercise’; ‘safer, quieter roads’ that they ‘had more time’.
In the UK, commuting is responsible for around a fifth of all miles travelled. Results show that the number of people working from home after lockdown is expected to increase by nearly a third – bringing the total to around 75% working from home at least one day a week. There will be a significant increase in the number of people who work 2-4 days a week from home.
These results show that lockdown has played an important part in sparking a change in not only working from home and reducing carbon emissions, but also working more flexibly – with an improvement in work/life balance. This would be especially meaningful for the third of participants who commuted for over an hour every day before lockdown.
Nearly 1 in 5 people who do not want to work at home a full 5 days a week say that this is because they prefer being around people. By embracing more community initiatives, people will be less likely to rely on work for socialising.
The results also showed that for those who will be travelling into work, the number of people who will walk or cycle to work will increase – whilst the number of people driving or catching a train will decrease. Many accredited their commute change to working from home and the rise in video conferencing – with over three quarters of participants saying they will now be using this to reduce the need for external meetings.
Growing food locally
The food we choose to eat can make up a significant part of our individual carbon footprints. Growing food locally reduces the carbon footprint of our food by reducing factors such as transportation, storage, and packaging. It also increases resilience for food security which is one of the key risks of climate change.
Two thirds of survey participants said that they plan to grow food after lockdown. This is an increase of over 20% compared to the results people gave us for ‘before lockdown’. Which means approximately 1 in 5 more residents will be growing food locally since lockdown – a significant positive impact!
Half of participants also said that they would be willing to volunteer at a Community Garden or Orchard; with nearly 9 out of 10 people saying that they would buy food from a Community Garden.
A third of all the food produced in the world goes to waste. This is a huge environmental and social issue and is responsible for 11% of all greenhouse gas emissions globally.
To help embrace the community spirit that developed over lockdown, the council asked people about how they could help reduce food waste and discovered that half of participants would be happy to use food sharing apps – both person-to-person ones, as well as business-to-person ones.
Half of participants would be interested in having local Community Fridges to help reduce food waste too. These are a simple way of enabling communities and businesses to share good food that would otherwise go to waste – unwanted food is dropped off and other residents can take it for free. There are already over 100 of these throughout the UK.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Reducing, reusing and recycling are key behaviours that help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing not only energy consumption, but the amount of resources that go into making products and packaging too.
Whilst shops were closed during lockdown, or whilst people were shielding or self-isolating, communities and neighbours came together like never before to share and support each other – the council wants to be able to embrace this in Dacorum.
3 out of 4 people said that they would be interested in using a community ‘Library of Things’ to reduce the need for buying new items such as DIY tools. Similarly, 2 out of 3 people would attend a Community Repair event to help get their broken items fixed so that they can be used for longer.
Energy and Water Use
Energy use in homes account for around 15% of UK carbon emissions. During lockdown, over half of participants saw an increase in their energy and water bills.
There are many different ways people can make their homes more energy efficient, ranging from making home improvements, turning down the thermostat or using appliances in different ways. For more information and advice about funding that could potentially help make your home more energy efficient, please visit: www.dacorum.gov.uk/homeenergy
The council wants to say a huge thank you to the 1500 residents who completed the survey. These results will be used to help shape elements of the Climate and Ecological Emergency strategy which will be released in 2021.
They also now have a mailing list of people who opted in to finding out more about future sustainability initiatives, if you would like to be added to the list, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit www.dacorum.gov.uk/sustainability to see the full survey results report.