Talking lamp posts, benches and bins come to Nottingham for new environmental project

People in Nottingham could soon find themselves talking to lamp posts, benches and even bins, as part of a new project to gather views on what climate change means to the city.

The University of Nottingham and Nottingham City Council have teamed up with creative research company, Hello Lamp Post, to introduce interactive, playful, talking street furniture that will explore attitudes to climate change and sustainability.

Anyone in the city will be able to interact with the objects by scanning a QR code or texting the number shown. This will allow them to engage in a friendly two-way conversation via text, Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger. They’ll be able to share their views, get information about what Nottingham is doing to tackle climate change and find out how to get involved.

This year-long activity is a vanguard partnership project between the University of Nottingham and Nottingham City Council. Financed by Digital Nottingham – a university initiative that uses data science, technology and innovation to solve local challenges and promote growth in the city, the scheme will play a crucial role in helping Nottingham to achieve carbon neutral status by 2028. It will increase public awareness of the issues and help local decision-makers to understand public behaviours, values and attitudes to climate change.

Helen Kennedy, Professor of Cultural and Creative Industries at the University of Nottingham says: “This playful and collaboratively designed furniture provides an unrivalled mechanism to have a sustained conversation with the city about current behaviours and attitudes towards climate change. The launch of this local conversation is particularly timed to coincide with COP27 so that it can benefit from, and contribute to, wider national and international discussions about climate action.”

Play is an incredibly powerful and unifying means of interacting with a diversity of audiences and it is particularly useful in providing a platform for engaging with complexity. The insights gathered from this project will be significant in shaping future research priorities and wider public engagement practices.

In January 2019, Nottingham City Council announced plans to make Nottingham the first carbon neutral city in the UK by 2028 (CN28). This means reducing emissions by approximately 22 percent each year.

Councillor Sally Longford, Portfolio Holder for Energy, Environment and Waste Services at Nottingham City Council, said: “A big part of our mission to become a carbon neutral city by 2028 involves getting everyone involved to reduce their carbon footprints where they can. I’m delighted that, through a collaboration with the University of Nottingham, we’re using Hello Lamp Post to have conversations with people in Nottingham about why tackling the climate crisis is critical to our future.”

Our target covers the emissions produced by the whole city, so we want to find out what matters to people and find ways we can support them to make changes. I hope that you’ll stop to say “Ey-up” if you see one of the signs when you’re out and about!

The University of Nottingham is regarded as a global leader in environmental sustainability and its research programme has a well-deserved reputation for supporting a cleaner planet. Research projects include using climate resistant crops to improve sustainable food production, converting greenhouse gases into reusable chemicals, and creating a new generation of aircraft to meet the UK government target of net zero aviation by 2040. Earlier this year, the university opened a new £40 million Power Electronics and Machines Centre, where innovative technologies will be used to develop ultra-low emission vehicles. The university is also working with Nottingham City Council to regenerate the Trent Basin, the second largest brownfield housing development in Europe, with energy efficient housing.

Over the last ten years, the University of Nottingham has reduced emissions on its campuses by more than 36 percent. It has invested in renewable energy installations and divested from all fossil fuel investments. The University Park and Jubilee campuses have consistently achieved Green Flag status and, this year, the university was shortlisted in three categories in the EAUC Green Gown Awards, which recognise exceptional sustainability initiatives being undertaken by universities and colleges across the UK.

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