At the “Just Food” ecocell workshop day, we held a breakout group to discuss the progress and future of the ecocell project itself. Through ecocell group and individual work, we have had five years of learning and engaging with behaviour change, and the tools we built to help us participate in reducing our own carbon footprint and ecological impact.
There are some fascinating developments ahead with this project, as the ecocell study and work group material is about to be updated, revised and launched to a wider audience. On Saturday we took stock of our own position in the project, summarising our recent experience, and our hopes for the next steps.
Watch this space (as they say) for developments in the next few months…
Here is my transcription of notes from the ecocell meeting – see below. They may not be entirely accurate, so please correct me where I have misunderstood or misheard or entirely missed something important.
[ GD ] In review of last year’s ecocell direction meeting, it was clear that some found completing the spreadsheet was too much. The other main conclusion was that it was a problem not meeting each other – particularly those not in the London area.
[ AP ] The measurements have always been difficult for me – my meter is down the hall and I forget to do it. Also, using public transport doesn’t make sense for me at all. Eventually, ecocell becomes a way of life. You don’t get up in the morning and think – now I’m going to do ecocell. It has become more a way of life.
[ PB ] I was going to say something similar. This mobile phone gadget was issued from work. I don’t know what it’s [all] for. I’ve made a call on it. Sent text messages. There’s a lot I’ve got to learn, but I use it for what I need to. With ecocell, I bottomed out at fuel usage, but I know there’s more to use if I get to it. Ecocell’s always got more to offer.
[ CW ] Confessions of an ecocell member [...] and I don’t do it. But we take from it. Some of the principles and understanding. We did the food module and realised we’re not doing it [...] We’re using it in a particular way but it can be used in another way. If we’re going to take away the [ introductory ] ecocell 1 material, we don’t want to take away the radical element of it. You can come alongside it and start to do thing – the encouragement of the modules – with the sort of things here [ today ]. It’s really good to know I’m not going to get told off if I’m not doing it all.
[ BE ] For me ecocell is an incentive. I love the way the [ spreadsheet ] graphs go [ of energy use over the year ]. You live the weather, so you know when the cold is – you see the carbon – when it’s used. We are starting to think of more things we could do. On the food module – we can’t do everything ourselves. Our food statistics are much better since we have a farmers market [ locally ] – grass-fed lambs from 20 miles away. Also – campaigning for society changes [ is important ] – to enable many more to inadvertently take part.
[ OE ] Those farmers [ markets ] – they’re almost Fair Trade – we need to maintain our own farming [ by this kind of support ]. Also [ they ensure ] animal welfare.
[ BE ] Fair Trade for local farmers in the UK has always been included in our LOAF [ Local, Organic, Animal-friendly and Fairly-Traded ] programme guidelines.
[ AP ] Is it two and a half years since ecocell started ?
[ Group ] It’s been five years since the ecocell 1 programme was launched.
[ JA ] I must admit that I’m only doing the ecocell meter readings now. I’ve made changes in my food generally, and in my travel generally, but it’s kind of peripheral. I’m only recording energy use – partly because I became a FiT [ Feed in Tariff ] Generator – you know – producing electricity on the roof by solar panels. I take readings every two weeks, and occasionally I produce a graph. I like the graphs, too.
[ BE ] I get the graphs from the ecocell spreadsheet [ with no effort ].
[ GD ] ecocell – it’s almost a bit like a reference manual. It gave our efforts structure. Is that enough ? What about the more reflective material ? The reflective stuff is based on group work – so is that problem [ of struggling to get groups active ] still there ?
[ AP ] Is perhaps ecocell 1 something that can be used to “refresh” ?
[ GD ] ecocell 1 – the problem with getting the groups meeting – we want to take it into other places and share it – also non-faith organisations. We did presentations to CTBI [ Churches Together in Britain and Ireland ] last October and we are having discussions with EIN [ Environmental Issues Network ] – should we almost rebrand it ? We might get ecocell into more areas. In order to do that we need to update it. We plan to absorb the ecocell 1 programme material into ecocell 2 and just call it “ecocell”.
[ XX ] Have you thought about joining up with Transition Towns ?
[ GD ] We tried and failed. We posted it on the Transition Towns website as a project, but haven’t had any feedback. Another way in there could be to contact on the ground Transition Town projects. The network is quite loose, though. [ One of the reasons that the Transition Towns website is not frequently updated is probably because people are out there, actually doing project work. ]
[ TR ] Wasn’t ecocell originally modelled on the Global Action Plan “Ecoteams” ?
[ CW ] Yes, but Ecoteams have now gone – due to do a drop in funding. The original ecocell was based largely on Ecoteams – although [ PR ] added a lot of statistics. [...] What I liked about ecocell 1 was it was an introduction. What I liked about ecocell 2 – it was radical discipleship.
[ BE ] [ In terms of introduction ] I was at a meeting where a woman held up the “Nine Ways to Live Gently on the Earth” leaflet and said “This is it ! It’s all in here.” So we are going to use the “Nine Ways” leaflet and re-design it as the first steps on the ecocell journey.
[ TR ] I have found “Nine Ways” a very useful resource – manageable without being too daunting.
[ CW ] In another sense it’s not challenging – or radical [ controversial ] – but ecocell 2 is saying “this is tough”. [...]
[ GD ] The national ecocell group was always going to be a challenge. Ecocell group work has been a bit like Transition Towns. At the beginning we showed films [ and everyone was very active ], then after a year or so people were not coming. People were out there “doing” stuff. But we’re not doing it “properly”. How much of an issue is this ?
[ CW ] If put this out to the CTBI it will be group-based, [ because CTBI is based on local gatherings ], local neighbourhood groups, and there would be an allegiance, not only to the church but the local group, so it’s worth keeping the group work as a concept. It’s also worth expressing that there are other ways to do this but not in a group.
[ GD ] There are introverts who don’t want to go on a journey with others.
[ PB ] [ Speaking as an introvert myself] introverts need help as well. Do need someone to relate to to get started – the interpretation of the material [ for example ]. I’m not an ecocell “member” – I’m a “user” of the programme. Using the Transition Towns analogy, there are user forums. I’d like to have my nerdy conversations with somebody about the impact of my food. There is a need for contact.
[ CW ] Mentors ?
[ OE ] ecocell has had other benefits – spin offs – such as three workshops – George Marshall, Dr Steve Melia and now Professor Tim Lang – all came out of the ecocell programme. [ There are always spin-offs to public education programmes ] for example the free school meals – the emphasis has been on real cooking – we all know parents who don’t know how to cook.
[ CW ] If ecocell goes to CTBI, there needs to be the possibility of connection – to say that there is not only this programme, but also this conference, [ workshop ], so that people get inspired to do something. So ecocell starts as a study programme, but there are spin-offs.
[ BE ] Tremendously productive spin-offs
[ LS ] Mutual provoking from the group [ is helpful ]. I’ve never managed to get a group going [ in my area ] – they all dropped out – already preoccupied with other things.
[ CW ] It’s great if it can be a group [...]
[ AP ] Our group did it for Lent, then dropped it – didn’t see it as a lifetime thing. [...] I get lots of other stuff from the email group – widens your perspective.
[ PB ] On transport and food issues, I got least from the ecocell programme, so the workshops have been good. Ecocell could be considered as a tool for getting evidence-based experience sharing. In future conferences we should do more experience-based exchanges.
[ LS ] [ One outcome for me is that ] I hardly ever use the car these days [...]