Sam Preston

Known to friends and colleagues as an energetic “eco warrior”, combating climate change has long been the cause closest to my heart. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I now work in the field of ‘behaviour change’, specifically for Energy Services at Nottingham City Council. My role is about motivating and empowering people to adopt more efficient habits, and I absolutely love it!


This kind of persuasion is certainly no mean feat but, much to my excitement, we are seeing a tangible shift in public attitudes, thanks to the likes of Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough. Nottingham has risen to the challenge, setting an astounding new ambition to become the UK’s first carbon neutral city. As we venture into the planning stages, it seems that now is the perfect time to find inspiration from other progressive, faraway cities…


My scholarship is dedicated to exploring the unfolding sustainability stories of US cities and taking home lessons and ideas to weave into our own green journey. Prominent US politicians are advocating the Green New Deal, a plan to restructure the country’s economy, aiming for decarbonisation by 2030, which happens to be inspired by Franklin D Roosevelt’s triumphant New Deal! During my trip I want to understand how such central green policies might play out at local level. Each state has its own history, infrastructure and cultural identity that form a unique lens through which the issue is viewed, and  which shape its approach. Very encouragingly, New York has just become the first state to pass the Green New Deal!


Central strategies aside, the marked individuality of states also gives rise to a huge variety of innovative projects, both in terms of technological solutions and citizen engagement. What I envisage is pulling together the most creative ideas from across the US to produce a tapestry of potential pathways for Nottinghamshire. So far, I have identified an array of fascinating pioneering case studies to see, beginning in north-eastern cities like Washington DC, New York and Pittsburgh, before moving west to Chicago, up to St Paul and Minneapolis, and then to west coast cities including Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Phoenix. Preliminarily, I intend to end with visits to some Texan and possibly Floridian cities before bringing my research home to develop recommendations tailored to our own areas.


Already, Nottingham is seen as a national leader in its green initiatives. When put into practice, my findings are intended to build on this foundation to strengthen it as a case study for other cities in the UK and beyond, enhancing its global reputation and serving as a working model to help bring about wider change. Of course, first and foremostly, the benefits will be felt by Nottinghamshire’s own citizens. Sustainability means social development, reducing inequality and improving public health; environmental development, enhancing our biodiversity, air quality and waste management; and economic development, establishing our place in the growing green economy and securing low-carbon jobs. Above all, my research hopes to illuminate ways in which Nottinghamshire’s people can be a part of the transformation, so that its bright future is designed by those who are to experience it.

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