Kids get it, why don’t adults?
Last week I had one of the more exacting challenges of my professional career – explaining the circular economy (but not using that phrase, natch) to about 100 5-8 year olds at my eldest boy Harry’s school. That’s a tough gig – especially when you can’t work out whether that look on your son’s face is pride or mortification.
I went for the green jujitsu principle of ‘show don’t tell’, taking a crate of recycled products, plastic bags of compost and the ‘waste’ those things were produced from. My pièce de résistance was talking about where a plastic juice bottle came from, then whipping off my Marks & Spencer’s fleece to show them the big ‘made from recycled plastic bottles’ label inside. But the kids really went mad for stroking the sheep’s wool insulation, poking at the undressed edge of chipboard and sniffing compost – I nearly had a riot on my hands.
But what really struck me is that these kids just get it. They love recycling a) because it’s obviously the right thing to do and b) because they’ve grown up with it. They were born into a world where the domestic recycling bin was as common as the residual waste bin. They don’t know a world where you dumped everything into one bin, or even one where you had to make the long slog to the bottle bank in some distant supermarket car park. It was harder to explain landfill to them than recycling.
Which made me wonder how much of the resistance to green behaviour is simply the baggage of having grown up without all this new-fangled renewable energy and closed-loop business models and seeing it as some esoteric novelty that we’re not quite sure about? And how will we persuade people clinging to the sinking wreckage of the old, fossil fuel-driven economy to swim off boldly towards the green rescue boat on the horizon? Or do we have to wait for the natural cycle of the grim reaper and the stork to do that job for us?