As our BIG weekend of conversations fast approaches I am reflecting on the pilot "1M Talking Climate" get together that I hosted back in April.
My get together, of five friends plus myself sitting around my dining table, was a "practice session" to help guide 1 Million Women on how best to format our "1M Talking Climate" get togethers and what tools the hosts will need. (We have since put together a brilliant "toolkit" which will provide you with everything you need for your conversations). And the first thing I learned, by the puzzled looks on my guests' faces, was that none of my five friends had even heard the term "Electrify homes", let alone how they would go about transforming their homes towards reducing emissions.
HOW TO TRANSFORM OUR HOMES
Even though this was only three and a bit months ago, I feel like the terms "Electrify your home" and "Getting off Gas" have become a lot more familiar in that timeframe and are now being used daily, across the media.
I learned from my group that a lot more education is needed to help householders understand what the process is all about; why we need to do it; and how householders actually implement these changes.
Another key learning that came out of my get together was that there is no single solution for households. There are a lot of variables and barriers that present themselves once you start your "household electrification" journey. So it's important to reassure friends and family that it's about "doing what you can" and not being overwhelmed and feeling like they need to do it all. For one person it might make sense to begin by changing their lights to LEDs and for someone else it might be investing in a heat pump hot water system. The message is it doesn't matter where you start, every bit of CO2 we can prevent from entering the atmosphere is a win.
The importance of having climate conversations is sharing our stories, finding common ground and inspiring others to have more conversations. I found that the conversation around changing gas cooktops over to induction sparked a lot of comments. A lot of people are very fond of cooking with gas cooktops and might not be willing to give them up yet! One of my guests had recently heard about the negative health impacts of gas cooktops, in particular asthma in children, and this led to much discussion. I love cooking with gas too, but ever since I found out the association with asthma I have been keen to change over to induction. In the meantime I am keeping my windows and doors open when I use the gas hob and I turn the extractor fan up to the max.
Avoiding the toxic chemicals, like methane, carbon monoxide and benzene is not the only reason I have changed my mind about induction cooking. The electromagnetic energy which drives induction cooktops is 68 per cent more efficient than its gas equivalent - so you have fast, controllable cooking without the toxins in your kitchen!
A heads up on retrofitting induction cooktops into the existing space in your countertop (where you previously had a gas cooktop) is that the size of the "hole" needed for the induction may not line up. Meaning for me that I needed to have a bigger space cut into my stone benchtop.
Another question that came up during our discussion about electrifying our homes - how does a heat pump work? I didn't know much about them at the time but I have since done my research. If you are curious to know about how a heat pump works you can read more here.
I looked into heat pumps for my own home and got two installation companies to come out to quote. I discovered that the full government rebates (at this stage) are only applicable if you are changing from an existing electric tank system. As my current system is gas instant hot water I was only entitled to a small rebate. Hence I was less encouraged to make the change straight away because my "out of pocket" expenses were more than I thought. I am hoping this will change, as more rebates and incentives are offered by governments.
We talked about rooftop solar and how one of my guest's neighbour's trees was shading her solar. The trees had grown since she had the solar installed and she wasn't getting the full benefits that she had hoped for. These are the kinds of things that might come up in your conversations and prompt input from others to tell their stories.
It can be hard to know where to go to get trusted information on transforming your home. One of my friend's suggested that it would be good if 1 Million Women provided "consumer choice" type information to give people confidence and know who to turn to when retrofitting homes with electric appliances and solar. For our Australian members we now have on board some brilliant trusted partners that you could speak to if you have a product or installation question.
Another question that came up was whether there is a facebook group about electrification, where ideas can be shared - there is indeed a group called "My efficient electric home" group, which is a good forum to swap knowledge and experiences and seems to have enthusiastic members.
HOW TO MAKE OUR MONEY COUNT
There are three topics covered in the 1M Talking toolkit. You might find that your group will have more knowledge to share on one topic over others. It is up to you and your group to decide if you discuss one, two or all three topics. My guests were more confident discussing the topic "How we make our money count" - where we discussed how every $ we spend or invest can be invested for the good of the planet. The power is with you - whether the decision is to choose a bank that doesn't invest in fossil fuel companies or choosing a 6-star rated energy-efficient fridge.
My group were keen to talk about the economic power of women, particularly when it came to fashion. They had strong opinions on greenwashing and they believe there is a lot of greenwashing in fashion. One of my friends had first hand knowledge to share. She had recently designed a women's wetsuit that she had manufactured in China. She had tried her best to make the wetsuits as ethical and sustainable as possible but had to compromise on everything but the fabric in the end. She believes that many manufacturers' claims about the sustainability of their product are false, after experiencing the process herself.
HOW WE RALLY OUR LOCAL POLITICIAN
The third topic we discussed is "How we rally our local politicians" - and this is about empowering us to have constructive conversations with our locally elected representatives. No matter what side of politics they are from, we aim to help accelerate bipartisan support on climate action.
For the friends at my gathering this was unfamiliar territory. We asked the group to fill in a short survey at the end of our get together. One question was if they would be confident talking to friends and family about climate and engaging politicians. A couple of them felt that they would be comfortable talking to family, but not friends. The information in our toolkit provides great information on how to start a conversation with your local representative.
There is so much to learn and share by having conversations.
If you have signed up to host a get together (thank you!!) - I hope some of this information will be helpful to you. And if you haven't signed up yet - it's not too late. You can sign up here.