Lindsay Wilson is the creator of the wonderfully informative website, Shrink That Footprint. It’s the perfect guide for anyone wanting to reduce their personal carbon footprints based on hard data. Now living in the UK, Lindsay works at Mineas, where he puts his Economics degree from UCL to good use advising clients on energy and finance. In this interview Lindsay reveals a little of the man behind the data.

Who is Shrink That Footprint aimed at?

Shrink is for anyone that is already curious or enthusiastic about cutting down their carbon emissions and wants a bit more information to help them make good decisions.  Because I’m a data lover (I studied economics) I choose to use data as my way of communicating what actions are most effective.

Is providing lots of data an effective way of changing the behaviour of people who don’t share that passion?

I think the data is a bit of a double edged sword on that front.  People find it interesting and even convincing sometimes, but too much can be baffling.  If you are talking about helping people change I think you need to start with simple stuff they can act on.  That is the feedback I’ve had from people and why I produced the 30 Day Shrink video series.

What have you done to personally reduce your carbon footprint? What actions have delivered the biggest reductions?

I’ve tried most things.  I’m not a big consumer of stuff so that isn’t an issue.  For the home I’ve improved our insulation dramatically and added solar panels.  For transport I try to limit car travel within reason (our family car still does 5,000 miles a year) and use my Dutch bike as much as possible.  Flying is the issue.  I don’t fly often but every three years the trek home to Australia blows that year’s footprint.  For food I’ve cut down meat and dairy which was very effective.

What is the overlap between your day job and Shrink That Footprint?

I use skills and knowledge from my consulting work on Shrink, and Shrink has taught me a lot about improving communication whether that be written, graphically or video.  Shrink doesn’t really make much money currently so it’s a labour of love.

You have an economics degree. What is your view of the prevailing practice of economics?

Economics is an odd area of knowledge.  It has the least cross pollination with other subjects of all fields which is a great shame.  I personally find the tools and modelling of microeconomics (looking at people and firms) really interesting and quite practical.  On the other hand I always found the macro models really lacking during my study.  They are used in such powerful ways for political rhetoric and policy and yet most of the models don’t really work consistently.

What odds do you give on governments implementing effective action to substantially decarbonise the global economy in an acceptable timeframe?

In a word, none.  If you really dig into the data it is obvious that we are constantly crossing red lines in terms of committed warming, but the action isn’t there.  To be fair to Governments they are often more proactive than the prevailing general mood.  It really is the tragedy of the commons.  You couldn’t have designed a more difficult policy problem if you tried.  That said, the cheaper that low carbon technologies become the more palatable the solutions are to the public.  It is hard for politicians when they often don’t look beyond the next election.

What’s your personal dirty little carbon footprint “secret”?

I’m not one for secrets, I like transparency.  The fact that I fly home to Australia every few years is the big footprint.  When I do it’s bigger than everything else for that year combined (when I get busy offsetting).  Despite the fact the emissions are huge I still love a good steak once in a while.  That is just the inner Australian I guess 😉

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