Car Share Skye – Sabhal Mòr Ostaig & Sustainable AmbITion

Profile photo of Chris Mitchell By Chris Mitchell
5 March 2014

Picture of Sparkle

Reducing Carbon emissions by sharing car journeys

Hello, from Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Scotland’s Gaelic College, based in the Sleat peninsula in the south of Skye where we provide a venue to SEALL, a local arts organisation who provide a full program of arts events throughout the year. We were looking to work with SEALL to help people attending events to reduce Carbon Emissions by encouraging them to share car journeys. AmbITion Scotland kindly helped us get our project off the ground with a grant from the Sustainable AmbITion fund.

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Introducing Skye

Skip the following if you already know Skye, but if not, this VisitScotland video features a dramatic fly past of locations here that have featured in various cinematic productions.

Skye is a big island with a sparse road network connecting a population of around 12,500 people and if you’re interested in attending an event somewhere on the island its highly likely that you will need to use a car to get there. Although we did identify from our research that at least one person is regularly travelling by bicycle.

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Why Car Share?

Here at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig we have a Carbon Reduction Plan which aims to reduce our Carbon emissions by 20% over a five year period. However, we were unable to reduce emissions produced by people travelling to our venue because we had no way to influence their behaviour.

In particular that …

Picture of arrow pointing downwardsDuplicate journeys are made to our venue from the same place
A journey to our venue affects our Carbon Emissions profile
A journey could be shared with someone else
We should try to do something about it.

 

So we decided to …

Picture of arrow pointing downwardsStart an awareness raising initiative and develop social media tools including links to car share websites to try to influence peoples behaviour.

How did we get started?

Picture of arrow pointing downwardsAmbITion Scotland helped us get started by awarding us a grant from their Sustainable AmbITion fund which we used to develop the following project.

LIOFT – CAR SHARE SKYE

Homepage screenshot

www.lioft.smo.uhi.ac.uk
Find travel companions to reach places in The Isle of Skye using Social Media tools.

 

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Starting the project

Our project started with a very helpful briefing from Ashley at AmbITion Scotland and we were put in touch with Archie Prentice at Carbon Diagnostics. Archie helped us to identify the questions we should ask to help us decide how to develop the project and we created a SurveyMonkey questionnaire which we would use to find out how people were traveling to our venue, if they already shared car journeys, and to also assess the level of interest in a car share resource. We also talked to Jamie at Doune The Rabbit Hole music festival about his experience setting up a similar project. The information that both Archie & Jamie provided was invaluable to us as we decided what approach to take.

Important questions to ask were …

Picture of arrow pointing downwardsWhat kind of technology people had access to?
What kind of Social media resources people used?
Did people want to share car journeys?
How can people share car journeys?
How would people be made aware of our initiative?
How can a small pool of people collaborate to share car journeys?

 

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A Jazzy Lioft Off!

Lioft launched at a Jazz Festival that took place here in Skye last Oct/Nov 2013. We developed our website, postcards and a nifty little Spark plug character we call Sparkle. Festival attendees were encouraged to visit the website and to either share car journeys or respond to our request for information using SurveyMonkey.

Picture of Jazz musicians

Picture of a postcard

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Stage 2

After the launch of the project at the Jazz Festival we looked at the answers to the questions that we had asked to decide what to do next.

Survey Monkey results

Picture of arrow pointing downwardsMost people are regular attendees of events
Car is the primary form of transport, followed by a lift from someone, then walking, and finally riding a bike
Journey distances were between 2-45 miles
90% use desktop based internet
27% using mobile internet
90% were Facebook users
12% using Twitter
Lastly, 90% were interested in a car share scheme

 

Stage 2 website update

Picture of arrow pointing downwardsNext we worked to develop links to social media resources and to include car-sharing websites to our website. We also developed a set of car window stickers/vehicle decals for college vehicles and updated the website to include these new resources.

Picture of car window sticker

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Challenges

The subject matter: Carbon reduction

 

In general people react positively to issues related to Climate change but we felt that our challenge was to develop an approach that balanced our aim to change behaviour with a desire to not lecture people about their day to day activity. We also wanted to calculate a reduction of indirect Carbon emissions but realised this would be affected by attitudes which we were both unaware of and sensitive to. It was therefore hard to achieve our target to reduce Carbon emissions because we did not have any way to measure an outcome without being intrusive. An alternative approach could perhaps measure Carbon reduction across a number of different contexts. For instance by looking at the aggregate use of car sharing over events taking place throughout Scotland and tackling the problem on a larger scale at a national level.To summarise, we were motivated to try to reduce Carbon emissions but realised that the eventual outcome would be dependant upon other people taking ownership of our goals and acting independently of us to achieve our overall aim.

Finding a lift

 

Car share websites tend to focus on longer journeys between cities, or specific events. One of the first things we had to consider was the suitability of a car share website to our group of users. How easy would it be for a user in a remote rural location to actually find someone else to share a ride with? You need to browse more than one site if you want to find a lift to somewhere out of the ordinary. This led us to set up Facebook and Twitter resources where like minded people in Skye can discover each other. One thing to remember though is that new technologies have to compete with old and the use of telephone and word of mouth is still going strong in small and remote communities.

 

What did we achieve?

 

We were able to create a website and social media resources to help people to share car journeys and have brought issues related to transport provision and Carbon reduction to peoples attention locally. Although we didn’t have as much impact as we expected in the short term, we hope that as the project continues to develop that we will achieve growth in the number of users of our Facebook & Twitter resources will lead to an increase in the number of people sharing car journeys to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and around the Isle of Skye.

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Going forward

This year we aim to increase the numbers of users by addressing new groups such as backpackers and independent travellers by working with local media outlets, transport providers, business development, and tourism marketing organisations.

An increase to numbers of active users will hopefully reach a critical mass which will tap the full potential of social media interaction and if we can also expand the geographic reach to include the whole of the Island we will be able to help those who struggle to get around the island using public transport.

We’d like to build upon our initial focus on Carbon emissions to help people throughout Skye who experience a very patchy level of public transport service. For example, here in Sleat if you do not have access to a car the larger shops and supermarket are 20 miles away and a round trip on a bike in the middle of a winter gale is a hard trip both ways.

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Conclusions

Our aim at the start of this project was to develop a way to help us to implement a part of our Carbon reduction plan that was not being addressed. The grant we received from the Sustainable AmbITion fund allowed us to develop a website that we use to promote car sharing activity. Further to this we realised from the response to our initial developments that a lot of people support our initiative and realise that it has potential to help people travel around the whole of the Island of Skye. This has encouraged us to look beyond this first phase of development and use the project to promote issues related to transport access and provision throughout the Island. We hope that this will lead to more people linking to the social networking tools that we have created and making more shared journeys around the Island.

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Tha sinn an taing (Thanks to)

Ela & Ashley at AmbITion Scotland, Fiona & Duncan at SEALL, Archie Prentice at Carbon Diagnostics, Jamie at Doune The Rabbit Hole Festival, everyone at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig who has contributed. Greg – translations, Steve – photography & web-design, Vanessa & Wojtek – ideas & enthusiasm, Chrissie & Angie – Marketing Team, and finally all of the interesting people we met at AmbITion Scotland meet ups in Glasgow & Edinburgh.

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