News & Views

Karen Simett – My Rethink Challenge story

Rethink Admin02.2015 The C-side Challenge

Project coordinator, Jericho Road Solutions, energy champion, 34.
Attended the Brighton Station Rethink Challenge

How aware of sustainability were you before you started The Rethink Challenge?

I was pretty ecologically conscious anyway – part of the reason I chose to do the course was because I would like to teach it myself in Hastings, where I currently live. But it’s getting from being conscious to being practical and that’s what I thought was really useful about The Rethink Challenge.

What sorts of sustainable things were you doing in your life already?

I was making choices when I bought stuff – buying eco-friendly cleaning and cosmetic products, for example. I monitor my energy use at home; I don’t drive, I travel by bicycle. I do it partly because of the impact on me and partly because of the impact on the environment.

Why is sustainability important to you?

Because I realise that climate change is a very important issue and it doesn’t seem that governments are making the right decisions fast enough. Therefore, it’s up to individuals to do what they can. Once governments see the electorate think sustainability is important, they might make bigger changes.

What was preventing you from doing more about climate change in your life?

I try to do the right things but sometimes I found I was falling into old habits. It’s because non-sustainable behaviour is normalised – we have lived in a certain way for so long that you have to make more of an effort to be environmentally aware and make conscious choices. There are huge parts of society that don’t think about these things.

What were you hoping to get out of The Rethink Challenge?

I wanted to learn some more practical measures that I could teach others. The course helps you reduce your carbon footprint to a tonne and gives you a whole range of actions you can take to cut it down.

How was the course?

Great – we played a game in one session that was very interactive, and you hear from the rest of the group where they are at and how engaged they are. It brought up things I hadn’t thought about before. Take food: I always think about where it’s made and what it takes to make it but I haven’t really thought about the packaging. For instance, I knew tin cans could be recycled but hadn’t thought about the carbon emissions associated with making the tin and transporting it.

What’s it like working in a group?

Really good – you can bounce ideas off each other and it helps you look at stuff in other ways. It’s helped me be more understanding of those that aren’t necessarily as aware as they could be. And it’s really good to hear from other people who can be really engaged in one area and then not so much in another without realising it. Then you watch that opening up for them – so yes, very useful.

Isn’t climate change a bit oppressive? There’s so much you could do, it’s easy to feel guilty that you’re not doing enough?

I’d already experienced this in my studies – that feeling of despair that you’ve got to change your whole life. However, if you care about this stuff it’s really inspiring to do something about it. No one running this course or taking part is judging you or telling you what to do. They are just making you aware of the impact of all our actions and what you could do about it.

What actions did you start taking during the course?

I’m taking meter readings – we are encouraged to do that as part of the course. The Rethink Challenge has reignited my awareness, and I am thinking a lot more about my use of energy, for example. I am definitely doing more than I was before. The course helps you do a complete overhaul of all the choices that you make. It has helped me think about the way I think about stuff and how I live.

Has your emotional response to climate change been influenced by the course?

Yes, I think so. Rather than feeling despair or guilt about it, I feel like getting on and taking action. The course gives you a way forward.

What will you do next?

I am involved with the Hastings Environmental Network and I have already considered how to engage people in a way that deals with the despair they might feel about it. Doing this course is about getting practical tools for how to do that. I would like to hold workshops and engage people on all the issues such as food and travel etc. I’d also like to start local growing projects.

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Brighton Station Rethink Challenge: the facilitator’s view

Rethink Admin02.2015 The C-side Challenge

By Jack Dangerfield, BPEC

The course took place over a period of five weeks (25 October-29 November 2014) and was organised into 3 x four-hour sessions. In total, there were eight participants (seven female, one male) registered on the course, four of whom were students at the University of Brighton.

All seemed keen to make changes in their own lives to reduce their carbon footprint.
The course went extremely well. While some participants didn’t attend all three sessions, those that did seemed engaged and knowledgeable about the issues being discussed.  Two or three of the group members already knew each other, which made it easier to get a discussion going.  Some of the activities continued for longer than anticipated because people had much to contribute.

Organising the course over three sessions instead of the usual six worked well and allowed for more time between activities, which helped to build a more relaxed “conversational” atmosphere. Participants gave very positive feedback about the course and all seemed keen to make changes in their own lives to reduce their carbon footprint.

Four of them are now hoping to become facilitators themselves and run future courses with BPEC. The group is planning to meet-up shortly to discuss progress and future plans.

It’s been very encouraging to see how The Rethink Challenge has inspired people to make lasting changes to their lives and to take further action to improve they way they live and work.

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Hollingdean Rethink Challenge: the facilitator’s view

Rethink Admin02.2015 The C-side Challenge

By Jane Glenzinska, BPEC

The course ran over 6 x two-hour sessions in an upstairs room at the Hop and Vine on Ditchling Road on Monday evenings.  Eight local residents were recruited to participate in the Hollingdean Rethink group, which ran from October to December 2014 and included a final, reunion session on the 19 January 2015.  

All the participants rated their experience of attending the group as “valuable” or “very valuable”
There was a strong sense of community cohesion within the group, which was aided by the meetings, and the attendance of the Hollingdean community development worker (a participant) who was able to provide useful local information.

All the participants rated their experience of attending the group as “valuable” or “very valuable” on their feedback forms, where they listed the actions they had taken to reduce their carbon footprints during the course, as well as actions they intended to take over the next 12 months.

Seven out of eight of the participants had home visits from BSW to provide domestic energy advice specific to their own homes, and were very satisfied with the information and suggestions provided.

At the final reunion meeting, the participants moved their focus from the changes that they had made in their own lives to the changes they would like to make in their own community. There was great enthusiasm around ideas for community composting and the possibility of screening sustainability themed films at a local venue in order to stimulate interest and involvement from more members of the local community.

Five of the eight participants have since expressed an interest in attending training to become Carbon Conversations facilitators, as they would like to provide others with the opportunity to participate in these groups. This training will take place in March 2015.

Overall, a great success!

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The latest on... Carbon Conversations

Alice Doyle05.2015 Community, Events, The C-side Challenge

What has been the latest news on the Carbon Conversations I hear you say?

April and May have been very busy months as we sent our first batch of carbon conversation trainees out into the community to start their own carbon conversations. Why not read about Jack’s story? We will have more updates on their progress in the coming weeks. We are also looking for new recruits for our September workshops. What would your carbon conversation look like? This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (07979 321 998) for more info!

We are also launching a C-Side challenge, so watch out for us as we rove around town asking people what really matters to them. Is it pollution on the Lewes Road, the high cost of housing or climate change? Everyone has an opinion: big, small, global or local, on what matters to them. And we want to find out what that is…

Another new feature is we will be running a series of “Conversation Cafes” with FREE TEA AND CAKE, on different themes every two months. Next month we will have Duncan Blinkhorn of the Bike Hub and the Bike Train fame talking on how cars are little metal boxes and the benefits of getting outdoors and on your bike. This will be on the July 18th, upstairs at the Marwood, 6-7.30pm.

We will also be at the Eco Technology Show, The Level Festival, and the Naked Bike Ride. So please come by to say HI!


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