Local Carbon Trading Scheme translates greenhouse gas emissions in a way everyone can understand
“I want my kids to feel they can do something about their future right now. I think everybody feels like this is all the hand of god, but this is a thing we’ve all been complicit in… I don’t want my kids to look at the future and feel like they can’t do anything about it. So I don’t want them to wait for some big carbon crediting scheme to come dropping out of the sky. I want them to feel like in their day-to-day approach they can do something,” says Sam Nelson, co-founder of the Maia Maia Project.
The Maia Maia Project (maia is the aboriginal word for house) is a local carbon credit scheme in Perth, Western Australia. The concept behind it is quite simple: statistically, money spent locally tends to stay local, spending in chain stores yields only about 20% return to the local community. Buying locally reduces the carbon footprint of any good.
Nelson, 43, manages greenhouse gas emissions for a living and he sees that there is much greater scope for his professional activities.
“I was talking to my mother the other day and telling her what I was doing … she was following me through everything but she was really getting thrown with this idea that she could actually calculate her green house gas emissions and I realize that’s actually a big stumbling block in the community. They think greenhouse gases are this nebulous sort of thing that you have to do a huge equation in order to crank out… But anyone with an excel spreadsheet and some basic math can do it.”
To Nelson, government regulation of greenhouse gas emissions is a top heavy and bewildering process. It is complex enough for business but perplexing to the public. He says that by getting local communities greenhouse gas regulation can be made much simpler.
“What we’re on to is something that’s a little bit different than how people normally think about how we should regulate greenhouse gas emissions,” Nelson explains, “But if you get communities involved these things can be set up quite easily. The concepts are quite easy. You can set up a way to value, instead of looking at everything as a cost– the media like to look at things as a cost– actually look at the properties of greenhouse gases that can turn them into something that can be used in a positive sense and reward people for bringing down their emissions.”
His scheme works like this:
Community members track their energy bills over a period of time. After six months they look at how successful they’ve been in reducing their energy usage and then they split the difference, “for some people just using that as a recognition is like getting brownie points.” The scheme uses people’s natural competitiveness to make it work. Every ten kilos of greenhouse gas reduction is set equal to one unit of Maia Maia currency (the Booya).
Nelson continues, “the real opportunity comes in when we engage the business community…. I mean, your corner deli as an operation generally can’t feel like they can do much about climate change but what they can do is accept one of our Booyas for every nine australian dollars.”
Businesses can participate in the scheme too by accepting and earning Booyas: “What we recommend is that they donate them back into the community sustainability project in return for visibility or additional advertising. They are… able to show that they’re a good citizen of the community and they get to do that twice: by putting them back into the scheme that way, they can run projects either by getting discounts with other businesses or paying back out to volunteers. It keeps these things going in circulation so one instance of dropping your greenhouse gas emissions can fund multiple positive actions. So you get this feedback loop.”
The Maia Maia scheme is unique from other local currency schemes (which have increased in popularity of late– click here for a list) in that it couples a carbon footprinting with a sustainable community project.
Maia Maia’s pilot sustainability project is a community garden at the local Chrysalis Montessori School (Perth, Western Australia) and are thinking of expanding to a waste management system shortly. So far there are 20 families, 24 individuals, and two businesses involved in the scheme.
Not in Perth and can’t participate in the Maia Maia scheme? That’s ok: check out these tips from the European Environment Agency about reducing your energy consumption. It’s all really quite simple!