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travel changing the world one click at a time 19.06.07 - social networking for
a sustainable future

You know what to do, that list of 101 things is pinned to the fridge and all it makes you do is feel guilty. How do you turn that first step into a skip? Briony Greenhill The Nag’s Project Director tells to naturalchoices how it works.

A survey released this week by Consumer International and Accountability reveals that 75% of consumers, although concerned about how their consumption effects climate change, feel paralysed to act beyond small changes around the home (such as turning off stand-by modes and converting to energy-efficient lightbulbs). The research indicates this is due to a lack of understanding about what individuals can do; concerns over the financial cost of acting; a perceived lack of availability; and a mistrust of corporate claims about energy efficient products and services. 9 out of 10 are skeptical about the green claims made by companies and governments, preferring instead to take the advice of friends and family, environmental groups and scientists.

The survey shows that at the idea level a large part of the battle to make people aware of their impact on the climate has been won, the problem now is enabling people to take the first step.

It is exactly this first step that the new social network website, is designed to help its users take, though the fun way they do it makes it more a skip than a step.

“Do one thing a month to make the world a better place (one nag a month…one lazy ass mouse click a time). That simple idea is the basis of this site once a month each subscriber will get a nag, a quick guide to do something- like change to green electricity- the majority of the action can be done at a computer, takes minutes and makes a difference.

How much difference can one person make, well quite a lot actually if that one person is joined by many other similar actions, “We have only just got going”, say’s Briony Greenhill the project director, “and we have 1000 members. 56 have already made the switch to green energy - that’s about 112 tonnes of CO2 a year saved”.

One of the great features of the site is that it shows the combined actions of the members, and how the network will spread across the United Kingdom. “The point of the impact map is that there are so many people out there doing so many things, but all in isolation. This will help show how big the whole things is.”

“There are three basic levers for change: the Government, businesses and civil society – including communities and individuals. We are engaging with the individual and showing that individual action is easy yet collectively makes a brilliant impact. The whole point about the nag is accessibility. Many things give a long list of things people could do: we show how to take each step.”

“Living a sustainable life is like learning to play a musical instrument. You don’t leap in and expect to play perfectly straight away - you learn one piece at a time. That is what the Nag is like, helping you learn one tune at a time, and before you know it you are teaching yourself.”

The Nag as you see it today is just the beginning. The team is building a whole social networking web 2.0 system behind it so you can share you pictures, videos, and ideas with others. is a project from Anti-Apathy, which began life as part of the New Economics Foundation. Like Anti-Apathy its focus is on sustainability, climate change and poverty, its approach is to encourage individual action and engagement and its style is upbeat, chic, design conscious and fun.

A sustainable lifestyle isn’t a burden according to Greenhill, it is liberation.

“It’s all about enjoying life. At a recent event about on sex and climate change we talked about how men always seem to want more sex and women seem to want better sex. Sustainability is like that, quantity versus quality. We are bombarded with marketing images telling use we need to buy more to be happy, when most of us actually find the real pleasure through fewer, better quality things”.

Anti-Apathy is based in The Hub in London, an environmentally orientated business centre for ethical companies. It uses green energy, its space is heated using wood pellet stoves, the phone system is powered by People Phone (I think it’s phone co-op).

Briony is keeping her direct carbon dioxide emissions to under 2 tonnes a year, 80% below what the average is in the UK. “That is the level I believe is sustainable. I cycle to work and have started to grow my own food-which is really exciting. At the same time I am part of modern London and enjoy it to the full - a sustainable lifestyle doesn’t mean a life of sacrifice!”

Peter Shield

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Related links

The -sign up for free, start your monthly sustainable workout and get the chance to one of their amazingly terrible Crap Prizes

What Assures Consumers on Climate Change? –Report from Consumer International and Accountability

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