Train vs car: The challenges ahead

Monday, December 6th, 2010 | News | No Comments

trains“Millions of commuters are likely to switch from trains to cars to avoid double-digit fare increases next month,” claimed the front page of the Metro this morning.

Bad news for the environment, if it’s true.

It’s important to point out that the story is based on a survey of people reporting what they WOULD do – a notoriously inaccurate reflection of what they actually WILL do.

That said, if rail fares do need to rise this much, then why are we letting rail companies and the government make them so much more expensive? Surely we’ve all got to the point by now that we need more rail travel. People want better trains and will pay for them: in recent votes in both California and Switzerland, people said that they were happy to pay more tax in order to fund better rail.

The train companies should also be doing more to market the other benefits of using the train rather than the car, for example the ability to do work while you’re on the move. (We’ve talked before about how rail companies could promote the journey itself.)

And finally, car sharing. If we are priced off trains, let’s at least be intelligent about how we use cars – by car-sharing as much as possible. Employers can do a lot here, such as helping employees who live near each other to connect; and councils can do a lot to run ‘find a car-share’ schemes as well.

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Home insulation – selling what people want

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010 | Our Philosophy | 2 Comments

beach holiday“Get your home insulated – get a free holiday on us” is the message from government, according to a report last week.


It’s great that the government has noticed that if we are to get people changing their lives – and houses – to save carbon we need to incentivise people, based on what people already care about.

Global Cool’s entire approach is based on:

  1. Making low carbon behaviour desirable
  2. Making it easy / affordable

Because if you can get people to want to do something, and then remove all the barriers to them doing it, they’ll do it.

It is enormously important to get people to insulate their homes, but to date most of the work on this, for example by central government, the Energy Saving Trust and The Green Deal has:

  1. Not done anything to make it desirable
  2. Not done much to make it easy. There has been work to make it more affordable (by creating a mechanism whereby homeowners can borrow the cost of the upfront work, which they can pay off through the savings from lower energy bills over time) but little around the other practical barriers like the hassle of cleaning out the loft to install insulation.

There’s been plenty of telling people to insulate. And, by way of making it desirable, some discussion of the financial savings. But those are pretty insufficient. People do what is fun, and what will happen soon. So, competitions to win holidays are good.

Doubtless, some will say that it’s inappropriate – that the government should rely on people’s “moral concern” for the environment, or should appeal harder to the financial benefit.

There is not time for those approaches. Global Cool takes – and advocates – a more pragmatic “whatever it takes” attitude: let’s do whatever it takes to get the carbon savings. If that is the bauble of winning a holiday, then fine.

Make it desirable, make it easy.

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