CAMPAIGN HERO: Dave Hampton, the Carbon Coach

Dave Hampton, the Carbon Coach
Dave Hampton, aka the Carbon Coach
Dave Hampton on watt's watt in carbon footprints and why he aims to launch a campaign for a million more carbon coaches

What motivated you to become a Carbon Coach?

I suppose it came from a feeling of powerlessness that something as vital as the climate and energy crisis was so badly stuck, and that things just weren't changing anywhere near fast enough. It struck me as hideously ironic that everybody was trying to change the world and because the problem was so big no one was trying to change themselves and their behaviour.

What has been your most successful campaign to date?

I would have to say the Come off it day back in April 2006. I think it did a lot of good and it spawned several other campaigns like it. Come off it day got a lot of remarkable backing and enthusiasm, lots of newspapers picked up on it. Come off it was authentically me; it is about the power of concerted individual action.

The name worked at two levels: 'coming off it' as in coming off a drug, carbon detox, but also as in 'come off it, we can't do anything about climate change - it is way too big.'

It was the start of people realising that they didn't all have to change the world, they just had to change their own stuff -in their own backyard. It got a lot of endorsement, a lot of people said how good it was: the freshness, funkiness of the website and the name itself, the come off it brand has just got something about it!

What have you got planned for the New Year?

I coined the term, carbon coach back in 2005. Next year I am going to launch something that helps people to coach themselves, and help them get involved in co-coaching people that are close to them, on an amateur basis. Eventually once they have ‘learnt the trade' with loved ones, hopefully the programme will give them the confidence to go out into the community and set up as carbon coaches.

Amateur coaching is what we all need because none of us have got all the answers yet.

Quite recently I've got the distinction between amateur and professional and having been a professional for 30 years realised that the word 'professional' doesn't hold any magic or mystique. The people who really change the world are usually amateurs. The root of the word amateur is to work for love, so the word amateur to me is the highest possible compliment.

Corporations: work with them or against them?

For a lot of people, when they hear what I do for a living socially they say, 'so you do energy reduction for companies do you?' and I say 'well no actually.' One of the rules I set myself six years ago was that I would only work with a company if they gave me a real person to work with, and I've pretty much stuck with that. So, yeah work with them, I don't think we have time to bring them down and save the planet, I might be wrong.

Not all corporations are the same, some are serious about a radical rethink, and if so I definitely want to work with them.

What is the best way to motivate people and keep them motivated?

One thing I think many motivational experts are right about is that the action itself is the thing that motivates you. At the end of the day we can only motivate ourselves, we can't be motivated by someone else, it has to come from within, and we are the only people that can do it.

'We are the leaders that we have been waiting for'. If it is true that the thing that motivates us is feeling as if we are all, in some sense, a leader, then the simple answer to that is taking some action.

There is actually much joy in constantly being carbon conscious, many people's first reaction is that it is going to make them miserable because they are going to have to worry about how much petrol they are using in their car or how much gas they are burning, but it is actually the opposite, once you know watt's watt, then everything from there on in is entirely positive - so simply understanding carbon is the best way to keep people motivated.

Is there only so much a person can do and if so, how can we achieve the rest?

If you look at the 10tonne footprint for the average UK person, something like 80 per cent of that is one way or another under our direct control, whether it is flights, gas bills or the stuff we buy. The biggest self delusion there is, is that other people, other companies, countries are the problem and that we are not. But truth is, we are the problem and we are the solution.

Even if it is true that an individual can do so much, it is time to do that so much that we can do

The late Wangari Maathai, who I always found deeply inspirational, captured this simple idea very brilliantly in her beautiful fable The Hummingbird.

What would you the recommend is most important thing to get 2012 off to a good start?

I would invite people to get a rough handle on their carbon footprint. Use whatever resources are available to you, there are loads: none are wrong or right (and they all give you different answers) but the Resurgence calculator is one that I quite like. Accuracy is not important, it's your honesty and your enthusiasm to size yourself up and learn a little about the various big chunks that make up your footprint.

After you have your ball park figure, tell someone, a person you trust love and respect, not a specialist, not a professional, just a good friend. Share with them that it really is your intention to shrink your footprint during the year ahead. Ask them if they are willing to support you as you take whatever steps you decide to take. Ask them if they will help keep you accountable, during the year, encourage you, and ask you to summarise for them how you did - at the beginning of 2013.

Historically what everyone has been doing, and I've been part of it is saying that I can fix you, I can help you shrink your footprint but this campaign [working title: a million carbon coaches] will be a whole reversal of conventional wisdom, it is about keeping each other accountable for what we each want to save, just for ourselves. There will be no telling, no judging, no invitation, just a personal decision - that is why the person you chose to be your carbon buddy is going to be important.

Everyone is busy looking outside for campaigns and solutions, when it is your inner [carbon] footprint that should be focus for the year ahead.

What was the highlight of your year (2011)?

I think the highlight is me fully getting, for the first time maybe, that I am not responsible for anyone else's life or behaviour -and that I am only responsible for my own! Gosh, it feels good saying that, I have been living in this fantasy world where I believed it was up to me to save the planet and if that is a mental illness it is quite a common one - we all know of campaigners who seem to believe that everyone else is wrong and they are the only ones who are right! But if we go around clearing up our own mess and being positive about our own lifestyle, other people will start copying us and picking up their own carbon ‘litter' too.

What campaigns have caught your attention recently?

I loved the energy in the Emily James Just Do It film, it really captured the essence of 2011. Many people don't realise what all these activists had been going through in these last 5 years, it really is a potent film.

What is the most fun, interesting or inspiring part of what you do?

It is actually related to doing the important work of reducing my carbon footprint at home because that's not only part of my job and something I know I ought to do, but which also inspires me. I can't authentically inspire people to reduce their footprint unless I am doing it myself. And I guess that applies to all of us, so why don't we all inspire each other by our actions in 2012?

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