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The Supporting Sustainable Living Grant Scheme: What’s it all about?

The SSL scheme is now closed for applications. Project reports and evaluations can be found here. Please take a moment to have a look through some of the innovative and influential projects that have been funded. 

Everyone knows that our lifestyles need to change in light of climate change but there are lots of things that prevent us from making those changes. Even after big government and media information campaigns there is still a big gap between people’s knowledge about climate change and their actions. 

One way to try to close this gap is to find out why people behave in certain ways and what is stopping them from changing. This methodology is already well tried and tested in the field of health where significant changes in behaviour - such as habits around smoking and drink-driving - have taken place. Many now believe we need to learn from this and use the same tools in changing people's attitudes to sustainable living.  

For example, everyone knows that cycling is better for the environment, personal health and fitness, and often your pocket, than driving. So why aren’t more of us on our bikes? It is not because there is a lack of information about the benefits of cycling – there are other factors too and these will be different for different people.

These could be: 

- I don’t feel safe             

- I need training

- I don’t own a bicycle                  

- I live too far away

- Everyone else drives                  

- The car is quicker

- If I cycle to work I will need to shower once I get there

- If I drive I can also stop on the way home to do my shopping 

And more.

A project focusing on behaviour change – rather than just awareness-raising - would find out what these reasons are and try to address them in the most effective way. This might be through providing training or subsidised cycle hire or asking employers to install showers or even comparing cycle and car journey times on particular routes. It may also work to make cycling the ‘cool’ way to travel. 

The important thing though is that the behaviour change approach relies on engaging people and finding out what the barriers to changes are, and then providing the right knowledge and tools to reduce them. It does not proceed with a purely intuitive idea e.g. people don’t cycle because there aren’t enough cycle lanes. If it did, then you might end up spending money on a solution that isn’t relevant to the people around you and is therefore not going to bring about the change in behavior that you are after. 

There are many theories as to why people change behaviour but social research has identified several factors that successful behaviour change projects have in common. These include: 

1.                   People are more likely to change behaviour if they see other people doing it.  

2.                   People are more likely to change behaviour – and maintain that behaviour – if they have made a public commitment or pledge, or if they have peer support. 

3.                   Different messages work for different people. There is rarely a ‘one size fits all solution’.  

4.                   Successful behaviour change projects have a good understanding of their target audience and credibility within it – people are more likely to change behaviour if they are encouraged to by someone they know and trust. 

5.                   Spending time on project design, and building in testing and evaluation, will keep the project on track and help make sure it is delivering the behaviour change that you want.     

The Supporting Sustainable Living grant scheme is based on this behaviour change approach. This is because climate change is such a critical issue we cannot afford to invest in solutions that aren’t going to work. We need to know that project ideas have been properly researched and that the proposed activities are relevant to the target audience and will have a strong chance of success. This can be based on evidence from your own research or from learning from the experiences of others. 

There is not just one fixed behaviour change approach. There are a number of models or tools that you can use and this grant scheme will support you to learn more about them and how to use them. Whichever approach you choose, your project must be able to demonstrate that it will contribute to the scheme’s aims of reducing greenhouse gas emissions or helping communities build resilience to the impacts of climate change. 

You will not be on your own but will have the support of an Environment Wales Development Officer to talk you through the scheme and help develop project ideas. We can also signpost you to relevant resources and case studies of successful behaviour change projects. 

The scheme follows a framework to support groups to properly research – or scope out - project ideas and later to pilot them to see if their chosen approach is successful. If it is successful, there is another stage to allow groups to roll out projects on a wider scale or to new audiences.  

Please follow the links in the left-hand margin for further information on the Supporting Sustainable Living Grant Scheme