In terraria… lessons for Sustainability
Every year, the approach of Christmas fills me with dread as I am rubbish at buying presents. If Mrs K looks twice at something in the months beforehand then it goes on my mental list. Sometime during the autumn, we found ourselves in a flower shop that sold terraria – arrays of plants in a sealed glass jar – and she was impressed. So, a week later I looked at the shop website for details, but just before I ordered the terrarium she had liked, I noticed the shop did make-your-own courses…
I was delighted as I could imagine her opening her present and saying “that’s lovely, I think it would look good here” and that would be that. So instead of a physical main present she got a piece of paper in her card with details of the course. And she loved it. She works a lot with soil health, so building a little artificial world of her own with a special mix of soil and plants was both an artistic and a professional delight.
And rather than being put in a ‘good place’, the terrarium has sat on our kitchen table ever since and is a constant source of discussion – the water cycle in particular is very obvious as moisture condenses on the shoulder of the jar and trickles back down like rain on a window. Like Planet Earth itself, the only input is solar (plus ambient heat), and yet the plants inside grow and the system evolves.
But the main message I take away is the difference between handing somebody something and saying ‘there you go’, and giving somebody the components and showing them how to create that thing themselves. The emotion connection you make with something you have created with your own hands is incredible. I found the same thing when I switched from ‘clipboard consulting’ (give me the data and I’ll write a report for you) to co-creation (‘what targets do you want to set?’, ‘how will you meet those targets’) – a step change in the level of ownership of the results by my clients.
In other words, don’t tell people how to do Sustainability, ask them how they would like to do it. The difference is immense.