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New grassroots carbon reduction project set for City of Yarra

(Left to right): Susan Inglis, Darren Sharp, Crina Virgona, Professor Ross Garnaut and Rob Salter will attend the launch.

A project to engage the community in reducing carbon emissions will be launched in Melbourne tonight (Thursday), with a keynote by Professor Ross Garnaut.

Livewell Clusters, a Curtin University project funded by the CRC for Low Carbon Living, researches barriers to and drivers of community engagement for low-carbon living. The Livewell Yarra pilot project to be launched tonight in Fitzroy will be the first collaborative trial of what the university hopes will be many clusters driving positive change from the grassroots.

Two further clusters are already planned – one in the City of Maribyrnong and a joint cluster in three eastern Sydney municipalities. The Yarra project will initially run from March until September, and is supported by the Yarra City Council and the Yarra Energy Foundation.

The project leader, Curtin University’s Dr Robert Salter, said community members joining the program would decide on and collaboratively work towards carbon-reduction targets with support from the CRCLCL, university researchers, the YEF, council and other local organisations.

The project is called “Livewell” because evidence shows people can reduce emissions while maintaining and enhancing wellbeing. Benefits that can be gained include smaller power bills, more comfortable homes, better health and stronger community links.

“There are many ways to live a low carbon life, such as draft-proofing your house, switching to energy-efficient lights or starting a food garden,” Dr Salter said. “You can walk, cycle or take public transport to work, install solar panels, switch to green power or share tools with your neighbour. There are many options, and they won’t reduce your quality of life.”

Reflecting the variety of ways people can reduce emissions, the clusters concept creates distinct focuses for actions and activities. For example in “Decarb Groups” between six and 12 people assess their carbon footprint, get information on how to reduce it, set targets, then help and support each other on the way.

“Project Groups” will focus on a project to make carbon reduction easier for everyone, such as organising working bees to do simple retrofitting jobs, bulk buying low carbon products or encouraging food gardening.

Chief executive of the CRCLCL Professor Deo Prasad said his organisation was very interested in how local communities could move towards low carbon living.

“A better understanding of what resonates at that level is important to support programs and interventions to lower carbon footprints,” he said.

Yarra Energy Foundation chief executive Sarah Johnson said the success of the project relied on getting people involved.

Beyond the clusters currently planned, the goal is to be able to set them up in any locality around Australia where there is demand. Once the CRC pilot phase is over, it is intended the clusters will become a fully autonomous participant-run movement that is embedded in local communities and well connected with like-minded organisations and sources of expertise.

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