The movie that woke her up to climate change
Climate change as a threat multiplier
Insights into government policymaking
Government regulation versus individual action
The influence of mining, oil and gas on Australian politics
Climate change as progressive vs conservative issue
Our ability to influence those around us
Socially contagious behaviors
Helping people take the first step
The difficulty of getting large organizations to change
Success Looks Like Making a Contribution to Society
Climate Change Is the Biggest Social Justice Issue Facing Our Generation
Climate Change Is a Network Problem
Where Do You Have In Your Life the Biggest Points of Influence
We Have a Lot More Power Than Is Currently Acknowledged
Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):
Zal Dastur 0:00
Hi, everybody. Welcome to the Social Innovation Podcast. My name is Zal Dastur. I’m your host today, and I’m here with Lily Dempster, the CEO of One Small Step. Hi, Lily, welcome to the show.
Lily Dempster 0:11
Thanks so much for having me, Zal.
Zal Dastur 0:13
absolute pleasure. So Lily, Look, why don’t? Why don’t we get started? And you can just tell us a little bit about yourself and about one small step in the work that you guys do.
Lily Dempster 0:22
Yeah, sure. So one small step is a free mobile application application, you can download it on the App Store. And our mission is to make it really easy for people to achieve net zero emissions. So we want to be decarbonizing humanity. And we’re doing that through a tool that coaches you to adopt a sustainable green lifestyle. We use behavioral science in the design of the app to make it easy and rewarding and sort of break down all the steps that people need to take, give people clarity on what they need to do, and then reduce some of the friction and kind of barriers that ordinarily make that stuff difficult and confusing for people.
Zal Dastur 1:01
It’s so helpful to kind of get down on a personal level to be able to help people and encourage people to to make change. I want to just go back a little bit to where you started your career. So could you tell us a little bit about that?
Lily Dempster 1:16
Yeah, sure. So going back to university, I studied arts law at the Australian National University in Australia, and I had grown up in an in a family where social justice was something we talked about, at the dinner table, my dad worked in public broadcasting, and was pretty engaged and passionate about press freedom, and journalistic integrity and anti corruption. And my mother worked in the mental health field. And so I kind of grew up with a value set where success in my family looks like making a contribution, a meaningful contribution to society. So that was pretty ingrained from an early age. And I chose to study law, because I was really interested in injustice, you know, the actual traditional idea of what Justice was and how do you support people who who need support, I was pretty idealistic when I was in my late teens about the legal system and how that could be used as a as a tool to support social justice. And then to be frank became pretty disillusioned in my law degree with the legal system. As I learned more about it, and also sort of second year uni watched, I don’t think it was an inconvenient truth. And I can’t remember the name of the film now, but it was something very similar to an inconvenient truth. And it was one terrifying and to really compelling. I realized that climate change climate crisis was the biggest social justice issue facing our generation and potentially facing civilization in its long history. Because of the unequal impacts of the climate crisis. You know, the poorest people are the worst affected generations in the future that had so little to do with causing the problem, or the worst affected, and it just maximizes human suffering. And it’s a threat multiplier. So if you think about human security, all of the things that we want to avoid poverty, famine, people being forced from their homes from their countries, because it’s no longer safe to live there. The levels of disease, you know, losing wildlife, extreme weather events, all of the stuff that we all know and worried about in terms of the impacts of the climate crisis, all of that those those damages really increase with each half degree or degree of warming. And so that’s what I decided I wanted to spend my life working on. It’s a really complex problem, you know, how we how we decarbonize society. And so I directed my degree, you know, I majored in Political Science, and did a lot of work in environmental law, climate change policy and law while I was there, but I also did some campaigning, started campaigning with get up, I think when I was like, 21, went over to Congress and did an internship with a wonderful Congressman named Jim McDermott, when you know, and I studied the APIs kind of recent greenhouse gas regulations. So I sort of crafted my degree around working in the environmental movement, and then found when I was finishing up my law degree that public interest litigation at the time in Australia wasn’t there wasn’t a lot there, I sort of done a, I guess a summer clock’s up call with the environmental defenders office and realize it would have had to do like another five years of corporate law, even to have a chance of working there and wasn’t prepared to do that, given how much I didn’t like corporate law. And so I sort of went down the campaigning route. And my first job out of university was in the graduate program at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, which was a really fantastic program just for like teaching young graduates like soft skills around like, how do you send an email like how do you talk to someone in office like how do you do Stakeholder Relations? Just basic stuff, someone I wouldn’t say arrogant, but I you know, I’ve done a lot of jobs while I was at university, I’d been a university tutor, I’d worked as a sub editor for paper called The East Asia forum and you know, so I’ve done a lot of stuff but there was still like, just some rounding out that I need. Did professionally and I think payments, they really supported me in that. And they gave me a fantastic insight into how policies is made on the inside. And I ended up working for three prime ministers in two years. Because it was that time of in Australian history where we had first, obviously, Rudd was knocked off. And then I came in into the grad program when Gilad was the prime minister. And then she was asked to momentarily by Rod just prior to an election. And then I worked under Tony Abbott for a year, that gave me a really good insight because I got to see policymaking from both sides of the political spectrum. It made me a more effective campaigner. And it also helped me understand how much of the work of the public service and of government is really just about trying to, you know, work towards the public interest. You know, there are some areas where that’s not the case. But the vast majority of the work that government does is done in good faith. Yeah. And then I went, went back into working for get up, worked as a campaigner there and ended up working as their market impact direct or running consumer campaigns, getting people to switch to zero carbon, low carbon products online, and also campaigning on their renewable energy target and on coal seam gas. And so from from there, I left, get up and started a master’s. And then I’d been thinking a lot about one small step. And the idea behind it, even while I was at get up just realizing that we had there was this gap in the environmental movement around what’s called demand side climate change mitigation, you know, how do we we’re going to need people in wealthy countries to massively change their behavior. And some of that comes through regulation and policy. But there’s, as we know, huge inertia in our top down political systems in large companies, we need bottom up behavioral change, we need bottom up community driven changes. And I hadn’t seen a really effective, empirical tool supporting that. And I had been obsessed with behavioral economics and sort of studied it a bit had studied economics while I was at PMC. And again, back in my political science degree, studied choice theory, and sort of went, Oh, there’s all this emerging research on how we can support the uptake of these Pro Environmental behaviors at a mass scale and do it in a cost and time effective way. And so that’s why I created one small step, I wanted to take that research, make it available to people who cared about the climate crisis, who wanted to be part of the solution, and then see what the effect size would be, and just make it easy for people to make those changes.
Zal Dastur 7:14
Usually, when I’m on this show, I asked people about what was the catalyst that got them started? Or what made them involved in the in climate or sustainability? And it seems like this is something that has been ingrained in you from from such a young age and the fact that you have planned your whole career around it really interesting that at no point did you get swayed, and I’m only saying this, because when I was in my teens and my 20s, I’m pretty sure I wanted to do whatever I wanted to do change every year. And my mind kept, you know, moving on to different things. I also studied political science, but with no idea of going into politics, which you obviously did. So how much was the family the influence in this case? Like because these were the conversations that were happening around your dinner table.
Lily Dempster 8:01
I mean, it’s always hard to tease out right like, but I think it’s pretty indicative that my brother guy also runs sustainability enterprise. Called Dempster, it’s a, it’s a textile manufacturing company that repurpose is all of the off cuts from the fashion sort of factory floor, and also the post consumer waste from, you know, beanies, and salvos and shops like that, taking all the stuff that would go to landfill, and then spinning it into yarn for reuse. So he’s just taking all of this waste that would otherwise go to landfill. And so it’s, it’s very much driven by sustainability principles. And it’s fantastic Circular Economy business. And the fact that we’re both doing that, like he started out, he was a fantastic visual artist, graphic designer, you know, he’s so good at art when he was growing up. And then he went into fashion design, and specialize in knitwear, and then had a sort of an existential crisis and then ended up doing sustainability focused stuff, you know, he’s always interested in it, but has has built something fantastic. And so I think the fact that we both are working in that area, it’s got to be about the family kind of upbringing, right?
Zal Dastur 9:00
This is one thing I really wanted to talk about to you when I was reading your profile, which is, most people in this space, always say that you have to go at a policy level individual action on the ground is not as impactful as government regulation and changing laws. And you’ve almost done the opposite. You started with the government, you started in these sort of large public institutions that are designed around protecting the environment. And your decision was then actually no, I believe we can have a bigger impact. Working on an individual level, can you can you talk me through a little bit about that journey, because I find that really fascinating. Yeah, sure.
Lily Dempster 9:43
So I started from that same perspective you just articulated, you know, I was my understanding of system change was well, we need to transition our energy sector we need to shift away from fossil fuels. We need to support electrification, we need to encourage and support to businesses to change their manufacturing and supply chains or so that they’re less emissions intensive, we need, you know, there’s all areas, you know, climate change, as I said, is a complex problems. There’s multiple fields of work in all of these different sectors, given that complexity, you know, looking at economic incentives and disincentives, taxation, policy, subsidies, potentially bans, you know, requirements, like just putting things like rubber tops on the top of smokestacks, for for cement plants, like there’s a bunch of really practical stuff, a lot of that is much easier to implement through government regulation. So I’m still very pro and government intervening on on climate, the climate crisis. In fact, it’s an absolute necessity. Don’t get me wrong about about that. But that said, I was so frustrated back in sort of 2014 2015, while I was working at get up at the lack of progress, especially in Australia, after decades of campaigning, and I think even now, you know, we’ve had this wonderful result from a climate standpoint in Australia, with the most recent election, all of the tail independents, the increased greens vote, you know, that’s a really strong signal that the community wants strong action on climate, which is wonderful. We’re still dealing with a a two party system effectively, even though you’ve got the growth of minor parties. And you know, both parties, there’s there’s very strong influence of the mining and energy industry, particularly in Australia, in Australian politics, it’s well documented. One of the things just as an example is, there’s still support for the Adani coal mine, which is going to create just the most massive amount of coal exports, really jeopardizing our chances in terms of effective climate change mitigation globally. You know, Australia is just such a huge coal exporter, we’re also doing a huge amount of gas exports, and we’re actually ramping up our gas exports. So, you know, that’s that both sides of the political spectrum in Australia, the Labour Party in the coalition supportive of that, although, you know, like the Labour Party has made noises about Adani, you know, they’re still approving the mine. That’s my understanding, on the most recent kind of situation. Similarly, there’s no plans to reduce the, I think it’s like 11, six to $11 billion, depending on how you account for it, you know, billions of dollars in fossil fuel subsidies, bipartisan support. So there are real issues with our political system, both here and in the US and in other countries in terms of its capacity to meaningfully respond to the problem of climate change, we’re getting there. But it’s been very slow. And frankly, it’ll continue to be slow. And probably this level of rapid action, we need it, there needs to be really strong community support. And when you’re looking at complex systems, which is something I studied at university complex systems, complex network theory, change doesn’t happen on a linear basis. If you’re just getting the really big actors in a system to change, they’re slow moving, and it takes a huge amount of force to get them to change. And they’re going to change really slowly. So that’s looking at, you know, multinational companies that are very heavily invested in fossil fuel assets. Same with governments, very large state actors. And so where you can have rapid change is in the sort of smaller nodes of a network. And you can have what’s called cascading cascading changes. So the fact that environmental behavior, Pro Environmental behavior, like installing rooftop solar panels, eating more plant based food, you know, switching from single use plastics, reusable, those are all socially contagious behaviors, because they’re visible, and they’re tangible. So there is a flow on effect from us making those changes. Once you reach a sort of a relatively small critical mass, people mimic each other, we know we’re a social species. And so you can support the rapid shift in social norms, by getting the people that are concerned about climate change in the hundreds of millions of them to make these visible changes. Also, to be clear, climate change, it’s a network problem, everybody’s contributing a little bit, a small amount. So if your unit of analysis is individual, short, you know, it’s hopeless to be focusing on one person, it makes a jot of difference when you’re looking at a global a global problem, but that misunderstands the nature of the issue. So it COVID is actually a really good analogy here. You know, if we looked at compliance with COVID measures in 2020, you know, I think the ABC site have some some really interesting modeling around if you had 70% compliance, what would happen to the infection rate, and you’d sort of have an increasing curve. Whereas if you had 80 to 90%, compliance, it would peak and and flatten out much more rapidly. And we saw with COVID, how important individual behavior was in contributing to the well being of the whole community. And it’s pretty similar with sustainability with Pro Environmental behaviors. If we act collectively, we can have a rapid and massive impact on emissions, you know, that that line about there’s 100 companies in the world that are responsible for the overwhelming majority of carbon emissions. If you go and actually look at those companies and what they do. They’re usually servicing millions of people 10s of millions of people to give them energy from fossil fuels, because those people are buying their energy from those companies. It’s a distributed system. We’re all contributing by choosing who we give our customers to. on how we consume the fuel that we use the energy we use. So, you know, to act like individuals don’t matter. And this, I think, is not only counterproductive, but but dangerous. And it’s actually a positive news story, because we have a lot more power in terms of collective consumer power than then it’s currently, you know, acknowledged in the public discourse.
Zal Dastur 15:21
I like what you said about COVID, because I’ve said that that is a dress rehearsal for climate change, you’re dealing with a problem that nobody can see, you’re dealing with a problem that comes after you, irrespective of how rich or poor Your country is, and it kind of affects everybody, no matter what they they want. And the world had to act together to solve that problem. Now, how well or badly we did as a dress rehearsal for climate change, I will leave that up to other people to decide. But you’re absolutely right that it is, it’s an interesting way to look at the problem. And in that same situation of how we manage as a collective. I wanted to talk about the Aussie election because I would almost say that’s a vindication for the kind of work that you’ve been doing to see so many independents and greens. And I understand Yeah, they were called the Thiel band or something where they all kind of got together on this very much anti climate change policies. Does that make you feel like we’re making a good step forward? Especially in terms of Australian general public?
Lily Dempster 16:27
Yeah, absolutely. I was so relieved, at the result, being somebody who, who’s very worried about climate crisis, it was a relief to see that outcome. But I think, you know, it’s easy to create narratives around why that result occurred. And it’s a complex area to fully understand. And I think if you look at the previous election result, there was a lot of effort around around climate campaigning, you know, and the incumbent coalition government was reelected fairly comfortably. And so I think, in this instance, from the stuff that I read, and I don’t think I’m well placed to comment on this, it’s not an area that I specialize in anymore. But it was clear that people were disgruntled with the existing government for a range of reasons that there was a strong shift away from the Liberal Party by women. And there’s a couple of reasons for that, that people have posited. One of which is just the government’s mishandling of, you know, the parliamentary inquiry into sexual misconduct with Brittany Higgins, and then the Christian Porter case. So that was, I think that might may have been a factor for some women, and then obviously, look at the natural disasters the east coast of Australia has faced in the last 12 months and then pre COVID At the end of 2019. With the bushfires, I mean, I think this is really, it’s hard to say, Oh, this is this is a direct, you know, direct link to climate change. But we know the frequency of those extreme floods, extreme bushfires is increasing due to climate change. That’s, that’s proven. And so I think I just speculate that that surely would have had an impact in in a place like Queensland, you know, with the with the Green Smoke there?
Zal Dastur 18:00
I certainly hope so. And I hope that this is Australia is a Vanguard for other Western democracies voting into power people that are taking climate change seriously, because that’s really one of the only ways that we’re going to effect massive change is by putting politicians that are not ignoring the problem and are trying to actively come up with solutions. Now, whether those politicians Once in power do something, again, the people have to hold them accountable.
Lily Dempster 18:27
I mean, I think it’s, it’s interesting in Australia, where climate change is seen as progressive versus conservative, which is so silly, because it’s, you know, it affects everybody. And it doesn’t need to be politicized. It’s pretty specific to our culture and economic setup, that it has been politicized and that has followed falling along this conservative versus progressive sort of lines. If you look at a country like Hungary, you know, with Viktor Orban, Orban as the as the autocratic leader, very conservative, and they have pretty strong emission reductions policies, it doesn’t have to be that a conservative person is anti action on climate change that’s specific to places like Australia, and then I guess, also the US to an extent, you know, I what I hope to see is it isn’t a political issue, so much as it’s it’s just a human one, and all parties are addressing it, because it’s a necessity.
Zal Dastur 19:19
Sometimes it seems like every issue is becoming a political issue. And you’re absolutely right, something like climate change, even COVID. And these should not be politicized, because they’re affecting wide groups of people. And irrespective of where you fall on the political spectrum, this is going to impact you. Yeah. And people should do something about it, especially in Australia, because Australian politics is, I find, like, they just like to shuffle the deck every year. And it’s like, oh, this person is Prime Minister. Great. And, you know, next year, who knows who could have be so I think that they try to politicize every issue, which doesn’t really help you understand the facts.
Lily Dempster 19:55
Yeah, I mean, I think politicians are going to politicize things. That’s that’s how they operate. It’s actually really more about I think, for me the environmental movements politicization of the issue, you know, letting it fall along the lines of identity politics, which I think is very, again counterproductive, because it’s an issue that affects everybody. There are plenty of reasons why, you know, a rural conservative person who’s worried about the longevity of the farm, he’s going to be just as concerned, if not more so about the impacts of climate change as someone living in the inner city, he could call her a lefty Sippi. What is it a lefty latte sipping lefty?
Zal Dastur 20:31
So you studied behavioral economics? And I’m curious as to because obviously, that plays a big part in one small step, because what you’re trying to do is just change individual behavior, what have you, what have you learned on the journey in terms of how to move people along? And how to get them more involved with the process or take more action in terms of climate change?
Lily Dempster 20:53
Yeah, so to be clear, it came up for me like I studied choice theory. And then I did micro economics. And then I studied, I did a program with BJ Fogg, who’s a behavioral designer from the US and another program with Marielle. But I don’t have a formal qualification in behavioral economics. It’s something I’ve just kind of obsessed over and learned, in my own time over about five or six years through that. And then yeah, I guess you could call it formal study with some pretty excellent behavioral economists internationally, the key things are just pretty basic concepts around like, people have to make a lot of considerations when they’re deciding whether to take a specific action. There’s just so much more friction in making decisions. And we realize a lot of it’s sort of non obvious. And so part of the work of one small step in our methodology is how do we make these changes as easy as possible for people to make? And also how do we make sure that their changes that they actually want to make that suit them? So the first component of what we worked on was personalizing the recommendations? So looking at people’s existing carbon profile, what’s your impact? Now? What is it made up of giving you clarity on that, looking at your household setup, your location, your preferences, and then providing recommendations to sort of say, well, this is your starting point, up here, and we can get you down to here with behavior change approaches with programs. So there’s a remainder leftover, you can either leave that or you can offset it here, you can do that with one, one, tap through the app. But then here’s the remaining kind of pieces. And this is the biggest chunk. So you might want to work on that first, where you can do these kind of easy quick wins, and just then breaking breaking everything down for people into these small bite sized chunks. So it’s like this will take you two minutes, then read this for 10 minutes, and then look at these recommendations on on green banks for five. So we just try and do all of the heavy lifting for people cognitively. So it’s easier for them. But I think a key part of behavior change that last is it has to actually benefit the individual. It can’t just be purely altruistic. Certainly not if you’re if you’re undergoing a significant cost or significant hassle or inconvenience, or you’re maintaining a process that you find puts you in a state of deprivation. You know, that’s a big thing for introducing plant rich meals into people’s diets. If you don’t learn what, how you can introduce more fruit and vegetables into your diet and reduce just reduce your meat intake, especially red meat, that’s a great thing to do. You don’t have to be militant about it, you want to be looking at like a 4% improvement, you know, week to wake up and those compounding incremental benefits really accrue quite quickly. So yeah, it’s just it’s just coaching and guiding people through that process. So that the heavy lifting is, is something we’re doing rather than what they’re doing.
Zal Dastur 23:31
I mean, especially in Australia, I would imagine red meat is a very part of the culture have a barbecue. I know that I remember the ads on Australia Day, were all about how it was an Australian if you didn’t eat lamb on Australia Day, are you starting to see people change?
Lily Dempster 23:48
Like Australia has the third fastest growing vegan market in the world. And the rate of change on that pretty pronounced even since about 2016. There was field polling of I think 10,000 people that showed you know, a majority of Australians were reducing their meat intake. So there’s good there’s good data to show that it’s, it’s mainstream now. And it’s not necessarily for environmental reasons. It’s also for health reasons. You know, the World Health Organization came out a few years ago saying that sort of deli meats or smoked meats were pretty likely to be carcinogenic and that you really want to limit your intake of red meat. So you know I think the daily recommended intake is like 90 grams per person.
Zal Dastur 24:27
Wow, that’s that’s pretty impressive when you think that it’s not unusual to see like a 250 grams steak on the menu.
Lily Dempster 24:35
Yeah, exactly. So I think you don’t know I I was vegetarian and then tried being vegan for a while. And now I tend to just ate kangaroo Wallaby when I’m in Australia as my red meat which is really good for the environment. While it be in particular, you can buy it at Coles and Woolies, it’s cheap, and it tastes really good. You just try it. But yeah, just making those kinds of substitutions and looking get, you know, how do I it’s really more about crowding out your plate with like lots of legumes, fruit, vegetables, seeds, stuff that tastes really good rather than just taking stuff off your plate, which is people are going to be upset about understandably. And the other thing I guess to note is like, we’re not just operating as little islands in this, you know, we’re part of social groups, part of communities, part of families, peer groups. And so the behavior of the people around us is really influential. And we can kind of lead by example, but you know, there’s lots of cultures where food is such a strong part of culture. And so if you know, someone’s making you a meal, you’re showing up to a family dinner, and you’re sort of say, oh, no, I’m not going to eat that it’s bad for the environment, you know, it can be quite jarring for people. And I think that’s why you get this sort of vitriol directed towards the poor vegans. Because there’s sort of this sense of like, well, food is partly our social fabric. So I think that there’s a way to do it really just by finding finding the joy in finding what the benefits are for you exploring the cooking, growing a repertoire, and in terms of prepping meals, and then introducing that in a positive way in your social circles. But it’s it the food is a really tricky one for people to navigate, I think.
Zal Dastur 26:07
So I’ve been a flexitarian for the last 12 years. And by that I mean that I only eat meat on weekends. And that too, it’s not like I go and have a steak every weekend. I just don’t not eat it. But I’ve realized the number of people over that period where when I started doing this, it seemed really strange. Now, not only is it far more common and far more acceptable, but when I go out for dinners with people, the number of people that are like, sorry, I’m, you know, I’m pescatarian, or I don’t eat red meat or that number has become significantly increased. And whether that’s, as you said, for health benefits, or whether that’s for climate, I am seeing a significant shift in the eating habits of people. And just the idea that you don’t need to have huge amounts of meat in every meal. Yeah, just I think what was very much the belief previously.
Lily Dempster 27:00
For sure, I mean, one other thing to note is just that there is some really exciting stuff happening with carbon farming and regenerative agriculture. And also looking at feedstocks for livestock using seaweed, using, you know, insects that that where if you can reduce the resource intensity, the immense resource intensity of farming, you know, cattle, for example, it just takes up so much water, so many fields of rain grown for feeding cows and pigs, when those those fields can be feeding human beings. So it’s also about the land use, especially as we start to experience more extreme weather events. Now, we have to be thinking about how we’re going to grow and maintain our food supplies, you know, and make sure that we’re able to feed everybody and feed them in a healthy way. And so that’s another component, it’s not just the methane emissions, or the energy usage it takes to grow all of that crop and then feed it to our livestock. It’s it’s also the land use implications in the water use implications. But there’s some really innovative stuff happening agriculturally that I think if you go and one of the programs we want to write in the app actually is like, if you want to support farmers that are looking at carbon neutral Carbon Positive farming, you know, there, there are some farmers doing that. And it’s excellent. And there are a few in Australia. So you can purchase meat that’s sustainable. But there it’s sort of a it’s a new area, new emerging area of agriculture,
Zal Dastur 28:24
I did see a map of the US which had, it was it was a total map of the country in it. And it had the square footage of how much was being used for specific for beef, like raising cows and the food for cows. And I think it was about 35% of the total landmass of continental US was used purely for raising cattle. And when you look at it on a scale like that, they said it was larger than sort of three or four of the states combined. And that really puts into perspective just in the amount of resource and the energy that we are using to grow this meat, which is actually it’s quite inefficient in terms of the process of how much grain and how much water is required.
Lily Dempster 29:11
If people who are listening are interested in this, there are two films that I think do a pretty good job of summarizing what we’ve been discussing. And one is called game changes. But it also looks at the health benefits of plant based eating. And it’s produced by Arnold Schwarzenegger. So it’s it’s highly entertaining. And then the second is Forks Over Knives. So and then the third although this one I think is a little bit more ideological and does cherry pick some of its data, but you can go and cross check it afterwards. This Cowspiracy
Zal Dastur 29:39
I’ve seen game changes and that was that was a really eye opening documentary on you know how important it can be for people to turn to a more plant based diet and the value in that. Do you feel that you are impacting climate literacy in Australia so the people that have the apps are now able to have more more intelligent conversations around their dinner table with their families and with their friends about the impact of action on climate.
Lily Dempster 30:07
Yeah, I don’t know that I can say definitively that it’s supporting people to have more constructive, better informed conversations, because it’s not something that we’re tracking, what I do know is that the tool we’ve proven that is effective in supporting our users to reduce their annual emissions. So you know, that’s the thing I’m proudest of, and most excited about, we’ve done it with a very small team on a small budget, and really just using it, you know, an A B testing empirical approach, we’re constantly sort of crafting the comps and design in the app and really trying to listen very closely to our users about what works and what doesn’t work for them to make it as effective a tool as possible and supporting people to adopt a green lifestyle, and, you know, and achieve net zero emissions or as close to that as possible. So in terms of the conversation piece, one, one thing that I think is where we all have a tendency, unconsciously to keep up with the Joneses, you know, if we see people around us engaging in specific behaviors, we have a tendency to do the same thing as the people around us. And you see this with dietary change the social contagion of dietary change, same with with exercise, you know, regiments, if you have, if you’re in a group of people who are very active, it tends to rub off on you and vice versa. So the thing that I’ve tended to focus on with the sort of broader impact of one small step that we that we can’t track directly is more about the flow and effect of those visible, socially contagious behaviors. So if we have people, you know, our user base, changing their bank, and then sort of saying, Oh, I did this, and it feels so good. And it took me two hours. And, you know, now I’m supporting green finance projects not invested in fossil fuels anymore through the bank that how good does that feel, Oh, I just set up composting. And now I’m not throwing any of my food waste in the bin, you know, now I’ve got this herb garden, and I’m saving money on on veggies each week. And you can see that, you know, you go into someone’s home, and you sort of see what they’re doing. I think that that’s much more powerful actually, then trying to use verbal persuasion to change people’s minds.
Zal Dastur 32:12
What has been the most surprising thing that you’ve seen from your data in terms of the changes and actions, I was
Lily Dempster 32:19
surprised that so many people engaged in the green finance program, because it is a slog, to change your superannuation fund, and to change your bank, you know, it’s not a fun job had a huge response, we’ve had users shifted collectively shifted over $6 million from their super funds and banks into green finance institutions in the last two years. And that, again, that’s with like, just through the app through the app program. So that was that was a surprise and an enjoyable one, given the the impact.
Zal Dastur 32:52
So would you have any suggestions or recommendations for somebody who wants to get involved in climate? But maybe it doesn’t know how to take that first step of, you know, yes, I already recycle. And I, you know, I bring my own cup to the coffee shop. But what about taking something a bit of a step further? Is there any suggestions that you could have for that?
Lily Dempster 33:13
Yeah, I mean, I think this is something we want to tackle in it in a program in the app with some supporting video. Basically, it’s about first identifying what are your points of leverage, like, where where do you actually have in your life, the biggest influence? People can be looking at their workplace, where they vote, how they spend their money? Where’s that? Where’s their influence, like, socially, politically, financially, and where you have the biggest, the most power, the most influence, that’s a safe bet that that’s a good area to look at. And that said, I think also, the benefits of personal sustainability extend far beyond just helping us to rapidly decarbonize society, there are so many benefits to to us as people if we learn how to engage more meaningfully with the community around us. So we’re tapping into gift and sharing economies for example, you know, we’re not buying new furniture, new stuff, we’re sort of asking for what we need from the community and provide it providing it back when people ask ask us when we’re looking at things like if we have the if we have the budget if we have the capacity, you know how to create a home that’s not just great for the environment because it’s using renewable energy and you know, and is great on the passive housing front you know, not using up a ton of of energy, it’s also comfortable, it’s great to live in, it’s good for your property value. Same with same with cycling, not driving so often looking at walking or cycling or catching public transport. You have this incidental exercise and built into your life it really improves your cardiovascular health improves your psychological well being you know, same with eating more fruits and veggies like anyone you know, basics of nutrition happens to also be great for the environment, but it’ll extend your life you know, it’s one of the key things that’s that supports long term Nobody is eating more veggies and fruit. So there’s a new save a lot of money being sustainable because you’re not buying stuff that you don’t need. So I think that I would just encourage people who are interested to download the app and use it, it makes you feel really great. It’s good for your well being beyond just the fact that it’s good for the environment. And we’ve created a system within the app that helps you work out the first steps that you want to take. You know, from an impact standpoint, it’s sort of dependent on the individual and their setup and what they’re already doing.
Zal Dastur 35:31
Can anybody download the app? Or is it only available to people in the US and Australia at the
Lily Dempster 35:36
moment, at the moment, it’s available in Australia in the US only, we’re hoping to launch it into the UK later this year or early next year. But that said, if this is something that appeals to you, and you’re excited by it, and you’re in a country that we’re not in right now, you know, get in touch where info at one small step app.com. You know, we could use all hands on deck. The key thing with launching into new geographies is we have placed base content. It’s all tailored to the specific location. So we need to write it and make sure that our recommendations are solid, that you can trust them that we’ve done our due diligence and all of the research for you. And so that’s why we’re not just globally available. It’s a place place based kind of approach. But we can use volunteer help to to flesh that out and potentially get into more more places more quickly.
Zal Dastur 36:22
Amazing, amazing. Lily, I just want to thank you so much for your time. It’s been a great chat. Good luck with deploying further into the US and around the world.
Lily Dempster 36:30
Thanks so much, Zal. It’s a fun fun chat. Appreciate it.
Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):