One Small Step: Behaviour Change at Scale

The third in our environmental series of climate crisis conversations with impact-driven businesses is a conversation with Lily Dempster, founder of One Small Step.

August 5, 2020

The third in our environmental series of climate crisis conversations

A conversation with Lily Dempster, founder of One Small Step

One Small Step is an app helping people build green habits, cut their carbon footprint and reduce their environmental impact through small behavioural changes.
Harvey loves the work Lily and her team are doing and worked with her on branding for One Small Step, previously known as The Neighbourhood Effect, the brand’s marketing strategy, digital marketing and strategy.
We so admire Lily’s passion and drive for change that when we were pulling together our panel for Pause Fest, she was at the top of our list. It's wonderful that we get to continue the conversation here on the blog.

Harvey: I know you studied law at university and so I’m interested in how you ended up as a climate activist/start-up founder.

Lily: After university I went into government through the graduate program of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and it was an excellent learning experience. I knew that I wanted to do political campaigning and I wanted to be effective, so I felt like I needed to understand more about how government operates from the inside. So I didn't go in thinking ‘I'm going to be a public servant,’  I went in thinking ‘I'm going to do this for two to three years and learn how to be a better political campaigner.’

Harvey: What was the move after being in government?

Lily: I then joined GetUp, which is a national advocacy group, and ran consumer campaigns for them. So, getting people to switch electricity products to greener energy providers. It was my dream job at the time because I was really interested in system changes and policy reform and had been very, very concerned about climate change mitigation from probably around the second year of uni.

Harvey: What did you learn from your time at GetUp that helped you launch One Small Step?

Lily: I recognised that through running consumer campaigns there was a gap in the environmental movement around using our consumer power to grow the market share of environmental-friendly businesses in Australia. I saw with these campaigns that there was a real rapid and tangible impact on carbon emission reductions, just from people switching their electricity provider or getting them buying green power. It busted the myth that individual behaviour isn’t important. Yes, you need top-down policy reform, but you also need behavioural changes to be made. I knew then that I wanted to be able to support people to make environmental shifts and show that small changes are a really viable, important thing to do. Because we have such high personal carbon footprints in Australia, when we act together to do things like reduce our waste, or our energy usage small changes can actually be quite impactful.

Harvey: And that’s the thinking behind One Small Step, right? It’s all about the small changes…

Lily: Exactly. I saw there was an opportunity to use behavioural change in the environmental movement. I was in government thinking: ‘Oh, there’s scientific research on how we can make it easy for people to change their habits.’ What I’ve done with One Small Step is take that research on what's effective in supporting people to adopt pro-environmental behaviours and put it into a low-barrier digital product that you can interact with and that supports you to make those changes.

Harvey: Can you now add ‘behavioural expert’ to your CV?!

Lily: I’ve become obsessed with behavioural economics! I read a huge amount over a five year period, but don’t have any formal training so I brought in expert consultants to help me.  

Harvey: So, with the app now live what’s the plan for it moving forward?

Lily: We’ve taken a lean start-up approach and so every week we’re testing and tweaking the starter programs already being used – programs cover food waste, general waste, trying out plant-based meals, energy saving hacks, cycling and green finance.

Phase two is going to bring in habit-tracking, which I’m really excited about. An example of how it would work would be, say, in the beginner food program. At the moment you can learn about plant-rich meals and how they benefit the environment and pick a couple of recipes. With the tracking tool you can see the real time impact of these changes to your diet  and what your environmental impact will be if you continue to eat more plant-based food on a weekly basis.

Think of it like a Fitbit for your carbon footprint.

Download One Small Step from the App store and start to track your impact.

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