Energy literacy and community action: shaping new low carbon practices at home and in a school

Burchell, Kevin and Rettie, Ruth (2011) Energy literacy and community action: shaping new low carbon practices at home and in a school. In: Royal Geographical Society (RGS) with the Institute of British Geographers (IBG) Annual International Conference 2011: The Geographical Imagination; 31 Aug - 2 Sep 2011, London, U.K.. (Unpublished)


Making energy (consumption) visible and knowable – through the use of energy monitors, carbon calculators, product labelling, social marketing and education – has become a key approach in low carbon strategies. However, our starting point in this paper is the extent to which this is contemporarily conceived as an educative process of individual and household-level ‘behaviour change’ (Shove). By contrast, in Smart Communities, we draw on social learning theory, practice theory and community action to reframe this as a highly socialised process of social learning and practice change. Social learning theory draws attention to the importance of facilitating experiential and informal ways of learning (Darby). Practice theory urges us to consider practices as mutable arrays of material objects, meanings and skills, alongside the things that people do (Shove). Community action best practice shows us that doing things together can provide the conditions in which the potential for social learning is maximised (Heiskanen; Schone). In this paper we provide further details about how ‘household education and behaviour change’ become ‘social learning and practice change’ in Smart Communities, by facilitating project members to: use energy monitors for social learning; share energy consumption data on the project website; meet to discuss energy as an element of practices; agree on low carbon ways of doing things to establish as community norms; share progress in adopting these; also share experiences of broader practice change; and, act together at home and at school, with the support of other local institutions (council, library and transition town group) and the Energy Savings Trust.

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