The #CarbonBubble – Engaging with residents around Climate Change

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A giant orange inflatable #CarbonBubble sparked positive conversations on the streets of Staffordshire this summer. Its aim - encouraging people to talk about climate change and understand how they can reduce their carbon footprint.

A giant orange inflatable CarbonBubble in Staffordshire

The challenge

Climate change is a subject that is challenging to simplify – it’s difficult to discuss without delving into a little bit of science. We talk about greenhouse gasses, net zero and carbon footprints like we all know what we are talking about. The reality is, most people only have a very vague understanding of what these concepts mean.

We wanted to find ways to break down these terms and make them relatable for residents, to encourage them to take meaningful actions to help combat climate change.

The solution

We started by tackling people’s understanding of the concept of ‘carbon’. This near-invisible element is generated by our everyday actions, including breathing, eating a banana, and sending an email. Too much carbon in the atmosphere contributes towards the climate changing. Some actions create more carbon than others, like driving a car, or putting the heating on at home. The amount of carbon each person creates is known as a carbon footprint.

On average in Staffordshire, each household creates 12 tonnes of carbon a year. We wanted to find a way to make this measurement real to residents, so they could understand how important it is to make small changes to reduce their carbon footprint.

Enter the Carbon Bubble, an enormous, vibrant orange sphere emblazoned with the words 'One Tonne of Carbon' across its front. This colossal bubble journeyed through Staffordshire during the summer of 2023, creating a dramatic, bold, innovative centrepiece for our mission: to engage with communities and spark conversations about climate change.

And to make sure we stuck to our own eco principles, the bubble was powered by environmentally friendly hydrotreated vegetable oil, and transported to events using an electric vehicle.

Our carbon bubble was not just a spectacle; it was a catalyst for meaningful dialogue, and it worked.

The impact

We organised eight events to take place over the summer months, one per district of the county. We had in-depth, face to face conversations with over 1,000 residents across all locations of the tour.

Colleagues from our local climate change teams were on hand at each event to answer questions and debunk common carbon myths. We found that people really liked having an expert to talk to about the issues.

Over 340 people at the events used our bespoke carbon calculator to assess their carbon footprint, helping them to understand the impact their actions have on climate change.

During the carbon bubble tour, we were also running a climate change consultation. We achieved 3,471 participants for the survey, sharing local opinions on climate change, and the obstacles hindering them from embracing a greener lifestyle. This has given us a much better understanding of people’s understanding, and insight about what to concentrate on next.

Lessons learned

  • While digital communication is now our go-to approach, we should not disregard the potential of in-person events. Especially when tackling complex and urgent issues like climate change, a face-to-face conversation can make a world of difference.
  • The in-person events sparked positive conversations and allowed us to engage with people who we might not otherwise reach.
  • We made the event as sustainable as possible. This was important given the context of the event, and it was one question that we got asked most frequently. To make the event sustainable, we inflated the bubble using a generator that used Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil - a substance that creates 90 per cent less CO2 than traditional diesel. We also transported the bubble to locations in an electric vehicle, or a van run on HVO when there were no EV’s available to rent. 


Rose Hampton, Senior Communications Officer, Staffordshire County Council 

Email: [email protected]