“I never win anything!” Sarah Fernandes said when she heard she’d collected first prize following the launch of the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Climate Campaigners app. Fernandes, a senior scientific officer at the Centre for Bioprocess Engineering Research, is now the proud owner of a mountain bike, after signing up and starting her chosen challenge.
The Climate Campaigners app is a global climate action tool that integrates behavioural and social science insights and grassroots action. It is an aid to those committed to living responsibly and sustainably by marrying good intentions and lifestyle changes.
Those changes are linked to the app’s challenges in the areas of diet, waste, energy or mobility. You sign up, choose a challenge category, set goals that are easy to achieve, and the app keeps you on track, monitoring progress against goals with weekly and monthly reports.
This might mean eating less meat, recycling regularly, swapping bulbs for LED lights, or cycling to campus; whatever is meaningful and achievable.
The app was launched on the UCT Plaza on 15 March. The initiative is led by Energy Systems Research Group senior researchers, Grant Smith and Alison Hughes, aided by master’s student Josie McCann, and PhD candidate Julia Tatham.
The director of Postgraduate Studies in the Department of Chemical Engineering, Dr Malibongwe Manono, awarded the prizes to lucky winners who gathered at the Chemical Engineering building on upper campus on 6 April.
Fernandes said she had no idea that when she signed up for the app, she’d be in line to win a prize. It just so happens that she loves mountain biking – especially in Cape Town – but doesn’t own a bike.
Five other UCT students who signed up to become Climate Campaigners won Wonderbags. The bags are non-electric slow cookers that are handmade in South Africa as part of a social-impact project. These work on simple heat retention technology, saving on fuel and energy collection and costs.
“Capetonian participants have, together, managed to avoid the equivalent of roughly 168 kg of CO2 emissions through these challenges.”
Take-up of the Climate Campaigners app since its launch has been encouraging, said Smith.
“For the moment, in Cape Town, there are 181 challenges that people are either in the progress of completing, or have completed,” said Smith. “So far, the Capetonian participants have, together, managed to avoid the equivalent of roughly 168 kg of CO2 emissions through these challenges, which is really good going. The app is also still very new – just out of beta phase – so one of the other great outcomes for us, so far, has been all the feedback about where the app still has unexpected bugs, and where it can improve. This is really helping us to make progress.”
Speaking at the launch, Councillor Beverley van Reenen, City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee member for Energy, had high praise for the initiative.
“It is an amazing idea to bring it to the university. And I see there has been great interest, and we're very pleased about that.”
The City’s vision statement for energy is focused on ending loadshedding in Cape Town and providing an uninterrupted supply of cleaner and cheaper energy to residents and businesses, she said.
“It’s important to engage our youth because they are the future.”
She praised the team for their innovative thinking, which dovetails well with the City’s own vision.
“The City very clearly would like to be leaders when it comes to the renewable space … as well as technology that supports that. It’s important that these engage our youth because they are the future.”
Van Reenen said the City is working towards becoming climate neutral by 2050.
“And I hope that this app will assist students and provide the City of Cape Town with innovative ideas, because innovation is the way forward. And the youth have brilliant ideas. This will also be a platform where they can share those ideas and innovations with the City of Cape Town. We could possibly implement [some of these ideas] at some stage.
Download the Climate Campaigners app for free on Google Play or the Apple App Store to get started. For additional information, visit the Cape Town Climate Campaigners website as well as the general page.
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The University of Cape Town is an internationally renowned hub for climate change research and training. Our work is a strategic response to urgent knowledge and capacity needs on the African continent – climate change impacts have severe implications for economic and social development, and Africa is particularly vulnerable. Greater expertise is needed to understand the challenges and to design, evaluate and sustain solutions. Engaged research can help society innovate and support effective climate policies and strategies.
This series of articles shows how UCT researchers are working with governments, civil society and the private sector to co-produce knowledge that is impactful, moving us towards a more resilient African society.