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12 January 2018

Lessons from 'The War On Plastic'

So, the big news this week is that PM Theresa May has listened to me and announced a 'war on plastic waste' at the launch of the long awaited 25 year Environment Plan. Like most commentators my opinion is the plan contains all the right subjects and targets but is light on the actions required now to get us on to the right trajectory.

Here are some wider thoughts about what we can learn from the announcement:

  • Sustainability is now right at the top of the political agenda and that is a good thing, no matter who is in charge. The Government has finally woken up to the fact that the UK is doing rather well on the environment and by showing leadership they can do even better (and appeal to some of the young people who have deserted the Conservative party in droves - quite a carrot for more action).
  • Everybody is an environmentalist: the ocean plastics issue has united everybody from the deepest green to the climate-sceptics at the Daily Mail (right) and even those purveyors of nonsense, the Global Warming Policy Forum. If you want to engage people in Sustainability, be prepared to start the conversation on common ground, particularly with something very tangible (like the iconic picture of a seahorse carrying a cotton bud).
  • Blue Planet II is already one of the most significant TV programmes ever. Ignore the green snobs, if we want real change, we've got to get the message into the mainstream.
  • 25-years is too long for a plan: Even if you want to set distant aspirations, I usually recommend 10 years for Sustainability Strategies as this is long enough to make real change on the ground (e.g. capital investment) but not too distant for decision-makers to think it'll be for their successors to sort out.
  • Aspiration without action remains just that. If I was advising Mrs May and Mr Gove, I'd have insisted on a backcasting process to fill in the gaps between those goals and what needs to happen right now to get on the right trajectory. This is what I do with my clients and it works extremely well.

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22 September 2017

Sustainability Bites: #ClimateOptimist, Cause for Optimism and Theresa May

Here's this week's edition of Sustainability Bites. I covered the Climate Optimist campaign (again), the Nature Geosciences paper on progress towards Paris Agreement commitments and Theresa May's speech to the UN. Comments in the comments please!


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8 September 2017

I never learn!


I really have tried to ditch the habit of responding to those who are way beyond redemption when it comes to Sustainability. One such chap is a fellow member of a mailing list for engineering consultants. He seems to have toned down his climate denial since I challenged him to a bet on his assertion in 2010 that global temperatures may be falling (he refused to put his money where his mouth is).

Anyway, a couple of days ago he said of renewables "anything that requires a subsidy is uneconomic." I couldn't resist responding with a link to a report saying G20 nations were subsidising fossil fuels four times as much as renewables. He dismissed the report as "superficial and devoid of analysis."

That just made me smile as none of his assertions came with any evidence or analysis whatsoever. I know it wouldn't matter how much evidence I produced, it would never be good enough. It shows once again that we are wasting our time arguing with people with such entrenched views; better to work around them, or find a clever way to engage them on their grounds. Butting heads just gives both a headache.


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11 June 2014

Sustainability for Real People

family blossom

As I write, I'm half way through an 8 day stint of solo-parenting our three boys - and, boy, am I exhausted. With the little one still at the nappy and Calpol stage, and the middle one still demanding quite a bit of attention, it's a flat out effort to keep food on the table, dishes done, cleanish clothes on them, and some semblance of order in the house. By the time they're all bathed, regaled with stories and in bed in the evening, I'm beat - and facing a load of chores just to be ready for the morning.

A couple of years ago, I tried out a 'sustainable living' programme run by a high-profile not-for-profit - partly because of a position I held at the time, and partly to see how other people do engagement. The idea of the programme was to monitor your waste and energy usage and then share ideas on-line on how to reduce those impacts.

Reader, I flunked it completely.

The problem was even the small effort required to weigh and record each load of waste going to the bins was at least doubling the time taken to perform this task. And in our house, if it takes twice as long to do something differently, then it doesn't happen. OK, I might manage once or twice, but if you have a teething child screaming at you, dinner is on the hob and the bin is starting to stink, that bag of waste goes out fast. My data quickly became so patchy it was a joke, so I packed it in.

And I think that summarises the problem with the attitude of much of the activist end of the environmental movement - and even the Government programmes such as the UK's Green Deal. They assume that people have, or should find, the time, inclination and energy to sacrifice on sustainability. A sizeable minority may do it, but for the majority, other pressures - or pleasures - will take priority.

The best way to do sustainability for real people is to make it as easy as 'normal' behaviour, if not easier. Failing that, make it more fun, cheaper, or more status-enhancing, whatever - just make it better. And, if you are looking to test a sustainability idea for practicality, can I blearily suggest a single parent might be the ultimate target audience...


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10 May 2013

Green Business Confidential: Lighten Up

Here's the latest in my Green Business Confidential podcast series. It's called "Lighten Up". Make sure you listen to the end...

Audio MP3

Or, you can download it here and listen on your MP3 player:

GBC22 Lighten Up.

You can get the whole podcast series here or subscribe on iTunes.



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25 March 2013

Did Earth Hour do it for you?

earth hour

Did you switch your lights off for Earth Hour on Saturday night?

Did sitting in the dark for an hour make you feel better?

Or did you do it reluctantly because you felt you really should?

What message do you think it communicated?

Do you think it engaged anybody who wasn't already engaged?

Do you think it made a difference?


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