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RP3011: Project Update

Founded on a community-based living laboratories model, the CRC for Low Carbon Living research project on Community Carbon Reduction and Wellbeing Enhancement (RP3011) was launched in March 2014 under the guidance of project leader, Dr Robert Salter. The team is now preparing for the first of three community trials, which will get underway in Melbourne’s City of Yarra in September.

The objective of the project is to establish the effectiveness of Dr Salter’s unique ‘Livewell Clusters’ model for driving change in community behavior and embedding a culture of high-quality, low-carbon living within Australian society.tical mass and ripple effect

Dr Salter believes the model has the capacity to generate a critical mass of engagement and participation within a community, which will in turn cause a ripple effect – potentially embracing peers and community groups who come to accept green behaviour as ‘the norm’. This will ideally contribute to economies of scale for green products and services that drive down prices and improve uptake, ultimately imposing greater political pressure as society demands low carbon living be made easier and cheaper for all.

As the name ‘Livewell Clusters’ suggests, one of the key focuses of the model is strengthening the connection between a low carbon footprint and ‘having a great life’. It is no accident that so many Northern European cities – which enjoy roughly half the carbon footprint per capita than Australian cities – are regularly voted into the world’s most livable cities top ten. Research shows that behavioural changes – such as switching to alternate means of transport (walking, cycling, public transport) – contribute to this.

The Livewell Clusters model is founded on providing a flexible framework for local communities to develop and implement practical solutions for reducing carbon footprint. Participants have the option to get involved in a variety of ways:

·Mutual support groups and activities (some connected with church groups, clubs or similar) that set themselves carbon reduction goals and support each other to achieve that objective.

·Project groups to conceptualise and implement low-carbon initiatives within the community and beyond (such as setting up bulk buying schemes, walking school buses, home retrofitting working bees etc).

·Community events to broaden engagement and awareness (such as information sessions and workshops).: City of Yarr

The first of three trial Livewell Clusters will get underway in September in Melbourne’s City of Yarra. It will be undertaken by Curtin University researchers in partnership with the City of Yarra Council and the Yarra Energy Foundation – and, in the spirit of the community-based project, supported by volunteers and cluster participants.

The first meeting of the volunteer team was held on 13 May, with the view to mobilising planning and promotion efforts in the lead up to September. As with any community movement, it’s anticipated that word-of-mouth and active recruitment of peers by participants will be most effective at driving engagement and awareness.

The ultimate ambition is to create an autonomous, self-replicating and largely self-supporting movement of clusters that have strong links in their local communities and are well connected to sources of information and expertise.

The Yarra trial is expected to extend for between six months and a year. If all goes well, further trials of Livewell Clusters will be conducted in conjunction with the Maribyrnong Council in Melbourne and jointly with Woollahra, Waverley and Randwick Councils in Sydney.