Carbon management at the household level: a definition of carbon literacy and three mechanisms that increase it

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Abstract

In order to engage in carbon management at the household level, individuals need to understand how their everyday activities contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, and how they can reduce their personal carbon footprint. This implies a need for ‘carbon literacy’, a term that has emerged in the literature in the last few years without being formally defined. This paper proposes a definition of carbon literacy and compares this with other, related concepts. I then present the results of two qualitative studies that reveal how three mechanisms help to increase carbon literacy: energy monitoring; carbon footprint statements; and peer/social learning through sharing information, skills and resources with others. The different aspects of carbon literacy that these mechanisms contribute to are highlighted. Especially notable is the significance of carbon footprint statements, which enable understanding of the relative emissions associated with different activities, and the value many interviewees placed on learning within a group. These two mechanisms enhance the impact of energy monitoring by individuals, which is part of the focus of schemes such as the introduction of ‘smart’ energy meters in several countries. The implications of these findings for policymakers and others who wish to promote carbon literacy are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-35
Number of pages11
JournalCarbon Management
Volume9
Issue number1
Early online date12 Dec 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018

Keywords

  • carbon literacy
  • carbon footprint
  • energy monitoring
  • carbon calculator
  • greenhouse gas emissions
  • climate change mitigation
  • social learning

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