BT Smarter Living Challenge uncovers steps to sustainable living in the UK

  • Behaviour changes identified supported by technology could help households save up to £938 and up to 1.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) per year1
  • Seven small but sustainable actions could help cut UK household emissions and support the UK Government’s commitment to reach net zero emissions by 20502

London, 1 July 2021 – BT today announced the results of its Smarter Living Challenge, which highlights the powerful impact UK households can have on their carbon emissions by using technology to support simple sustainable lifestyle changes.

Run in partnership with environmental charity Hubbub, the Smarter Living Challenge invited consumers and BT colleagues from 61 diverse households to take part in a three-month pilot to trial different approaches to living more sustainably at home.

Participants were set regular challenges and supported with help and advice from experts3 to help them reduce their heating and hot water usage; manage their power and lighting; and to reduce food waste. The project also looked to identify where technology could be used to improve these actions or make them easier to carry out.

55 households completed the challenge, taking a total of 448 actions to reduce their environmental impact, including switching to new renewable energy providers, turning the thermostat down one degree and repairing old technology items.

Based on the participants’ progress, seven high-impact actions were identified which included

  1. Switching to a renewable energy provider/ tariff
  2. Turning thermostat down one degree
  3. Turning appliances you don’t use from ‘standby’ to ‘off’
  4. Cycling or walking for shorter journeys
  5. Reducing food waste
  6. Repairing old tech items
  7. Having shorter showers

If these seven actions were adopted on a sustained basis, an average household could save £9381 on their bills and up to 1.7 tonnes of CO2e per year1, helping to support the carbon reduction required of households in line with the UK Government’s commitment for the country to become net-zero on carbon emissions by 20502.

As part of plans to reach net zero by 2045, BT is already using 100% renewable electricity worldwide, which means consumers who buy mobile or broadband from EE, BT or Plusnet are already supplied by networks that are powered by 100% clean power.

Andy Wales, Chief Digital Impact & Sustainability Officer at BT said: “With a customer base of 30 million households, BT is well placed to help consumers cut their carbon footprint, and through our technology and networks, we’ll help to underpin the innovative solutions needed to become a net zero carbon economy.

“The Smarter Living Challenge has shown that UK households have an important part to play in fighting climate change, and when combined, small sustainable lifestyle changes can make a big difference.

“Over the coming months we’ll be stepping up our efforts to help support, educate and empower our customers to take action.”

The results of the Smarter Living Challenge revealed the important role technology has in making the household shift to sustainability easier. The study found technology helped participants to better visualise and cut energy usage and costs; prompted them to manage their food and water use, and online forums helped households to share tips, ask questions and celebrate one another’s successes.

Gavin Ellis, Director and Co-Founder of Hubbub, said: “The trial showed that tech alone isn’t the silver bullet to household carbon emissions, but when applied alongside more conventional non-tech actions and behaviours it proved to be highly effective and more than three quarters of participants say they plan to stick with the changes they’ve made.

“Technology was often the enabler for people to make changes, and while some of the available technology is expensive, we found many free or entry-level options which every household could benefit from. Taking part helped households to save time and money, as well as gaining greater control of their homes.”

In the run up to climate talks later this year, BT is calling on other companies to meaningfully engage with their customers, colleagues and suppliers about climate change and has developed a seven step guide4 to help steer the conversation.

A full report on the Smarter Living Challenge can be found online here. It provides a detailed overview of the project’s activities and findings, including the most impactful actions observed, participant case studies, and analysis of the role of technology.


Notes to Editors

The Smarter Living Challenge took place between December 2020 and February 2021, inviting 61 households to trial different tech and non-tech approaches to living more sustainably at home. The households broadly reflected the UK population in terms of demographics, living circumstances, location and attitudes to sustainability, as well as technology. Just under half, 30, of the households were BT colleagues and 31 were from the general public, the majority BT customers. Full details of the study can be found in the report here.

  • 1 An average household could save up to £938 on their bills and 1.7 tonnes CO2e by adopting and sustaining these seven actions. Please refer to the appendices of the report for a list of the most common actions and assumptions and calculations for the carbon and financial savings.
  • Carbon calculations were independently reviewed and validated by Giki, specialists in personal carbon footprint calculations.
  • 2 If one average household were to take each of these actions, they would save around 1.7 tonnes of CO2e over a year. Put in context, if every UK household took these actions, it would achieve 6.6% of the carbon reduction UK households need to make to play their part in achieving net zero by 2050.
  • Using DEFRA 2018 household carbon footprint data and Office for National Statistics data for the number of households in the UK. See appendix 3 of the impact report for calculations and assumptions.
  • 3 Smart home technology expertise was provided by The Eco Experts. 17 other visiting experts offered advice to participants through virtual events on a range of topics.
  • The seven steps to help businesses engage with their customers in a more meaningful way are:
  1. Practice what you preach to motivate and inspire employees and customers
  2. Support while selling and make it easy for customers to take actions
  3. Spell out the benefits, making clear the environmental and financial gains
  4. Use the power of peer to peer because meaningful change happens when people support one another
  5. Offer structure and guidance to help turn actions into behaviours and habits
  6. Make it fun so that participants enjoy meeting a challenge and making a difference
  7. Be inclusive and make change achievable, so that people can take action no matter their circumstances
  • Further information on how BT is supporting its customers to cut their carbon emissions is available here.
  • For more information about BT's work on Digital Impact and Sustainability please visit: Digital impact & sustainability | BT Plc
About BT

BT Group is the UK’s leading telecommunications and network provider and a leading provider of global communications services and solutions, serving customers in 180 countries. Its principal activities in the UK include the provision of fixed voice, mobile, broadband and TV (including Sport) and a range of products and services over converged fixed and mobile networks to consumer, business and public sector customers. For its global customers, BT provides managed services, security and network and IT infrastructure services to support their operations all over the world. BT consists of four customer-facing units: Consumer, Enterprise, Global and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Openreach, which provides access network services to over 650 communications provider customers who sell phone, broadband and Ethernet services to homes and businesses across the UK.

For the year ended 31 March 2021, BT Group’s reported revenue was £21,331m with reported profit before taxation of £1,804m.

British Telecommunications plc is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

For more information, visit www.bt.com/about