Oxford, UK

Summary

Oxford has produced a compact guide and supporting website to promote sustainable living and help citizens reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Guide is available in hard copy or electronically from the partnership website: www.oxfordismyworld.org Reductions of 1200 tCO2 from the first 300 individuals pledging support to the campaign are expected – 4 tonnes per capita!

What is it?

The guide is aimed at a broad cross-section of Oxford’s residents, from the very engaged and informed to those who perhaps know little about sustainability and climate change. The guide is designed as a reference document so that, rather than having to read and digest all the information in one go, recipients can put it to one side and refer to it when needed.

Sections are divided into “very easy”, “fairly easy” and “not-quite-so-easy” steps, so that people can quickly identify what applied to them. The project is intended to have an optimistic (and un-clichéd) feel and promotes the additional benefits of sustainability – e.g. boosting the local economy whilst protecting the local environment.

At every stage of production, the environmental impact of the guide was considered. Oxford is My World sought to inform individual and businesses from a position of experience and also act as a signpost for other organizations.

As a result, hard copies of the guide were printed by award winning environmental printing firm, Seacourt, on recycled paper (75% post-consumer waste, 25% pre-consumer waste). The printing was done using a waterless offset process with vegetable oil based inks; a method that minimizes the amount of water used and negates the use of harmful chemicals such as chlorine. The remaining emissions (associated with printing and distribution) were offset using local firm Climate Care.

The guide is available electronically and can be read and downloaded online. Nearly 75% of registrants opted to receive the guide electronically. Moreover, Oxford used ‘ecological hosting’ (Athenaeum) for the website, meaning that it is powered solely by renewable energy.

How does it work?

The guide contains aspirational and inspirational advice on how people can reduce their impact on the planet, whatever their circumstances or income. It contains broad-ranging advice on the large and small actions people can take:

"Harness the power of the sun and the wind by drying your clothes outside on a sunny day"
"Get a renewable energy system installed in your community with the help of the Low Carbon Buildings Programme…The West Oxford Community Centre was recently given a 50% grant to install solar electric panels on their roof."
"Consumer choices: use your power as a consumer to support low energy, long-lasting or organic products."

Information about the wider issues of climate change and resource use were included in the guide, although Oxford is My World has taken great care not to descend into scare-mongering or sensationalism. As a result, the guide is a serious manual aiming to enable change – and individuals can pledge their commitment to tackling the issues.

Application

Since the website was launched in March 2007, it had over 180,000 hits and over 4,500 hard copies of the guide have been distributed. Hundreds more copies have been downloaded from the website.

As a result over 300 Oxford citizens have signed the Climate Change Pledge and requested a ‘personal carbon reduction pack’. The Oxford is My World partnership expects this will encourage each signatory to reduce their emissions by 4 tonnes CO2 /year.

Results

Oxford has received extremely positive feedback about the guide and the city believes it is a useful and popular tool to help people make environmentally sensitive decisions:

"Congratulations on the guide – very clear and comprehensive, and I particularly liked the web links in the pdf version."
"Well done on the guide - it's very good (I have just read it cover-to-cover!)"
"Thank you for letting my know about Oxford is My World, it looks great!"
"Congratulations on producing the ‘Oxford is My World’ booklet - a handy pocket guide to practical steps that individuals can take to reduce their impact on the planet, notably in relation to climate change."

In 2007 the guide won the Green Apple Environment Award for Local Authorities and the judges commented: “The council is widely regarded as a strong supporter of green technology, and the creation of their guide to saving the planet further enhances this reputation. Designed as a reference book for users to check whenever they have a query, the guide is packed with achievable and informative methods for reducing individual impact on the environment”. It was also short listed for a City of London ‘Sustainable City’ Award.

CO2 emissions reductions

Over 300 individuals have signed the climate change pledge and Oxford hopes that the actions suggested in the subsequent carbon reduction pack will save approximately 4 Tonnes / CO2 per signatory per year. This is based on the estimated emissions reductions of the suggested individual’s actions plus the knock-on effect of greater awareness in the community.

Costs

The cost of producing the guide was £5,500, including design, web design, web hosting, carbon offsetting and printing costs. The project received £4,200 in sponsorship from our partner The Midcounties Co-operative.

The on-going costs of the project are staff-time, provided by Oxford City Council’s Sustainable Energy Team, and the cost of the web hosting (£115 / year).

Next steps

Oxford aims to follow up the success of the householders’ guide with guides for businesses and young people. Moreover, the city aims to expand the Oxford is My World partnership to include local community groups, organizations and businesses. The online guide will be regularly updated, in order to keep the information fresh and relevant. In addition, a slimmed down version of the guide will be produced and distributed to every household in Oxford.