About Project Neutral
Who Are We?
We are friends, neighbours, residents, and colleagues. We came together through a common passion for thriving, healthy neighbourhoods, a desire to act (in response to climate change) and a belief that grassroots, neighbourhood-based efforts have tremendous potential.
In urban areas across Canada, the residential sector represents as much as 60% of greenhouse gas emissions. Worldwide greenhouse gas emissions are expected to increase as more people move to urban areas. Our focus in on established neighbourhoods where the residential building stock is old and inefficient, representing potential energy savings of up to 75% (average of 22%) for households.
We recognize carbon neutrality is an ambitious goal. Yet we feel passionately that the most important action that a neighbourhood can take is to start on that journey. With the right leadership, support and tools, we are confident great things will happen: neighbourhoods will come together and take ownership of their carbon footprint, innovative technologies and funding mechanisms will be piloted, and neighbourhood resiliency will grow in the face of one of the most daunting challenges currently facing our planet.
We know there is a great deal of concern about climate change and that the average person would like to do more; however individuals are often overwhelmed by the complexity of climate change and frustrated by an inability to link actions to impact, making it hard for them to set priorities.
Problematically, energy conservation and greenhouse gas emission reduction targets are rarely translated to the household level. As a result, when it comes to climate change, there is confusion around the model behavior that a household should strive for.
PN uses a community-based social marketing approach to create household level “norms” that make taking action on climate change more achievable, more tangible, and more fun. PN’s approach compares an individual household’s carbon footprint to others in the same neighbourhood, and to municipal reduction targets. By addressing this disconnect, PN helps individuals set and strive for meaningful objectives.
Project Neutral’s model incorporates the following steps:
Step 1: Engage Neighbourhood Leaders. To help make climate change personal, PN engages with neighbourhood groups and existing community leaders. The approach introduces a personal (neighbour to neighbour) connection, which tends to reach a broader group of participants and build deeper connections to the project. PN also finds that in many cases, neighbour to neighbour endorsements of greenhouse gas mitigating activities have greater resonance than recommendations by external experts without local connections to a neighbourhood.
Step 2: Benchmark Household Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Track Progress. Unlike other carbon calculators, Project Neutral’s Household Carbon Footprint Survey does not use citywide averages. We collect household-level data to enable residents to accurately track their progress. The survey examines waste, food, energy, water and transportation, providing a comprehensive picture of a household’s Carbon emissions.
Step 3: Compare Yourself to Your Neighbours. A dynamic interface shows residents which of their behaviours and actions are producing the most greenhouse gas emissions. As part of our feedback strategy, PN uses a community based social marketing approach to create “norms” (neighbourhood averages). Households can compare themselves to similar households in their neighbourhood, as well as longer-term municipal reduction targets. PN believes this approach creates wider adoption of mitigation activities while also strengthening neighborhood resilience in light of a changing climate.
Step 4: See What It Takes to Be Carbon Neutral The Household Challenge provides information to help prioritize opportunities and inspire action. Having completed the Household Carbon Footprint Survey and viewed her or his results, a user can set an emissions reduction target of 10, 20, 50 or 100%. To reach that target, the user can then view and select from over 50 actions and behaviour changes. The potential emissions reduction is calculated based on the user’s survey data, allowing for prioritization and the creation of a plan unique to her or his household. Local incentives, programs and resources can be accessed directly from the Household Challenge page, or from the Activator page.
How do we define Carbon Neutrality?
Balancing the amount of 'measurable' carbon produced by the neighbourhood with the amount sequestered or offset. So basically this means what your neighbourhood emits in carbon emissions will equal what the neighbourhood will take out or reduce – resulting in a neutral or net zero effect!
Measurable carbon includes the carbon produced by each household in terms of energy use, water use, solid waste, transportation use and high impact food consumption.
Is carbon neutrality possible?
Absolutely, although certainly not overnight.
Start now. Start possible. The first step is always the most challenging and we know we'll hit some bumps along the way, particularly with our first pilot projects. But with each neighbourhood it will get easier. And we believe Project Neutral has the potential to be adapted to all neighbourhoods across Canada. And it all starts here, with you.
This is a long-term commitment. Our research shows that a 20-50% reduction in household GHG emissions can be achieved within five years through zero to low cost retrofits and behavioural change. Greater reductions will require greater resource commitments, deep retrofits and more intensive behavioural change campaigns. Transitioning to carbon neutrality will take time.
New technologies will evolve. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? The exact amount of time that it will take to achieve carbon neutrality will depend on a number of factors, including the innovative technologies that emerge within 5, 10 or 15 years – some of which can be piloted in the neighbourhoods.
Expert advice. Several of our partners and advisors have experience with residential retrofits and energy conservation. Interested in helping out?
Private sector partnerships will be key. Entrepreneurs are increasingly providing mechanisms for funding retrofits and assisting with transformation to a low carbon society. If you are interested in partnering with us let us know!
Neighbourhood level solutions. Our model uses a neighbourhood approach to encourage participation. Similar to a running group, you are more likely to go for a run if you have a running partner. In this case, each participating household in the neighbourhood is your running partner, encouraging participation. This initiative will also be championed by local neighbourhood leaders. It will always be in your hands how fast you move to carbon neutrality and how you get there!
Project Neutral is a project of Tides Canada Initiatives
Project Neutral is a project of Tides Canada Initiatives Society (TCI). TCI is a registered Canadian charity dedicated to providing uncommon solutions for the common good by leading and supporting actions that foster a healthy environment and just Canadian society. TCI is a shared administrative platform, providing governance, human resource, financial, and grant management, for 40 projects across Canada, allowing projects to more effectively achieve their missions.
Project Neutral was founded by members of CivicAction’s Emerging Leaders Network (ELN) that was formally launched at the ELNstudio in December 2010. Project Neutral is grateful to continue to receive support from ELN.