Honestly, not clickbait or just trying to be contrarian, but while we probably would all answer ‘yes’ to the above, it’s helpful to think about a) what we actually mean when we say ‘The environment’, and then b) what matters about it? This then might give us ways to actually go from ‘concern’ to action. It’s a bit of a brain-dump of thing we and I have found useful over time and recently to improve our, and my impact on my, and the, environment.
Think Global. Act Local.
Of the Pandemic, I keep hearing “we’re all in the same boat”. We’re patently not. Some of our ‘boats’ have big safe gardens, free healthcare and secure incomes. Some have none of these. A better metaphor is that we’re all in the same storm. That doesn’t make it a leveller, but there’s the potential to think more globally as we are all ‘united’ in a common cause against an immediate threat. This shouldn’t be very different from how we see the Climate Crisis. We’ve shown how, in a few months, we can dramatically change our behaviours (and priorities?). As we ‘open up’ there’s the potential to not let this crisis go to waste, and use it as a chance to rethink our relationship with our environment. Rather than see 2020 as a year we want to forget, maybe it’s the year we had our eyes opened.
So, start local. Really local, like at your desk.
We’re all commuting less. Brilliant (for most). Leaders’ jobs are now to take the good stuff we’ve been able to do, and not simply revert to the ‘old way’. How to create creative ‘distributed’ environments? And how to handle hybrid meetings so we don’t go back to the ‘remote’ parties becoming marginalised. Imagination and technology… we’ve been using digital workshop tools like Mural. We’ve also run weekly ‘getting to know you’ sessions with the team – each taking it in turns to tell their own stories. It’s the stuff you might get down the pub, but actually works better and deeper – it’s more inclusive (not just for the drinkers) and really has made us feel more connected. We’ve also been looking at ways our digital footprint can be better – for instance ‘eco’ search engines like www.ecosia.org And we’re going for ISO 14001 and B-Corp certification this year, as well as rolling out asking our partners to do the same (or similar.)
Now, working outwards – your workspace
We’ve all gone through the Zoombie stage. It’s exhausting. We’ve found a great (simple) remedy that also links back to our environment. Take a walk (and talk). It’s something Steve Jobs used to do to help him think creatively. Walking meetings also have the advantage of not being literally face-to-face which can help reduce tensions (sidenote: there’s lots of implicit psychology in seating plans). But, if you have the option of walking somewhere green there’s some interesting neuroscience in that too – see this article from Berkeley. Plus you can bring some of that back into your workspace. Most home offices don’t have plants but we’ve (mostly) not been there as much before. Invest in some greenery for your home workspace as there are well documented mental health benefits – e.g. a recent study from Japan.
Next, Take it outside.
Next up, your garden (or flowerbox if you’re in a flat). If you, like me, fell for the idea of a long list of lockdown goals, unless you’re a superhuman (well done you) most of these have remained undone. If you have a garden, sorting it out was probably on that list. And given we’ve just had globally the hottest May on record you were probably out there a lot. Feeling guilty about the state of it (and perhaps thinking about the hot weather being welcome short-term, but deeply worrying long-term.). Again, some useful win-win advice I’ve taken – rather than seeing the garden as a thing to slave over (mow, trim, spray, weed, repeat.) see it as something to care for more gently. Go for wildflowers, let the lawn grow a bit. I used to go to war with dandelions each week. Tough buggers to pull out. Until I read that Bees need them in early Spring. Now I let them be. Also grow Rosemary and lavender – bees love both and they’re calming scents. I know I’ve gone all a bit ‘Good housekeeping’, but actually this stuff works. And it may sound small-scale, but the UK’s lost 97% of its wildflower meadows in a century, and re-wilding Britain’s 10m acres of gardens could help reverse this. Bee and insect extinction is actually one of the most serious immediate global threats. As Berkeley points out the economic cost of these vanishing bees is immense.
You are what you eat.
One of the ‘advantages’ of lockdown is most of us have more predictable (Groundhog Day) lives. Quit fighting that and embrace it. What’s the environment angle? Well, here’s a thing. 10 million tonnes of food is thrown away in the UK each year. Supermarkets signed a pledge to reduce this recently, but we can all do our part. Plan ahead. Meal plan. And if you’re into quantification – align it with exercise calorie burn. Take a decent lunch break, eat a decent meal (prep it the night before – confident you won’t do that thing of leaving it at home). Eat less in the evening which is when you least need food. Also look at intermittent fasting – if you don’t know anything about it, here’s a good summary from the NY Times. Lockdown, when you have control over your patterns is the perfect time to learn the habit. It’s less about weightloss, and more about improving concentration, metabolism, health and energy levels. And saving money. And reducing waste. Win win win.
Next up, Meat. Not all responsibly sourced meat is bad, environmentally speaking, and mass crop farming etc. to meet our (and animal’s) protein needs also has an impact. But it’s safe to say as a society we eat a lot more meat than is healthy or sustainable to the planet. Again, the win-win is that meat is expensive both directly, and indirectly in terms of government subsidies. If you’re on the fence, or just stuck in habits, one simple idea to change behaviour (again helped by a predictable schedule) is ‘meat free week’ – www.worldmeatfreeweek.com which is on the 15th June. Go for it. Your health, wealth and planet will thank you.
Lastly, what sort of environment is your money contributing to?
Two takes on this, one about shopping less, shopping local and in line with seasonal food. One particular trend that we’re hoping may never return after lockdown is Fast Fashion. Fashion emits more carbon than international flights and shipping combined. Buy quality, and buy eco – it’s no longer uncool. Check out All Birds and long-time hero brands like Patagonia (seriously, check out their website for an amazing intersection of storytelling and brand purpose).
The other take, and something I wrote about a while ago is where you put your savings. I’m not an IFA, so am not qualified to dole out financial advice, but here’s a good (longish) article on Ethical investments. Personally, this has been a very successful tactic, as especially cleantech has outperformed the market significantly in recent years, and is likely to continue to do so, as the cost of renewable and energy transition continues to fall.
There’s a thousand more things we can do, and feel free to contribute ideas or thoughts – and happy world environment day.