Bethan Thomas, head of engagement and communications at Resource Futures, says that if we want to evolve towards a circular economy, then we are all going to need to change our habits
January is a time of reflection for many and the events in recent months have made that reflection even more pronounced this year. There are always going to be ways that we as individuals and as businesses want to change, and changing those habits can be like trudging through treacle. But let’s be clear, if we want to evolve towards a circular economy and reduce, reuse and recycle as much of our materials as possible, we’re all going to need to change our habits.
I had the pleasure of working on a repair and share guide for Zero Waste Scotland last year, which I hope has been a useful source of inspiration for some as they go through their period of reflection this year. It’s a collection of six stories of people and communities that decided they wanted to change the norm and create something different. There were a few key things that stood out for me on this project that I think we can learn from as we try and tackle the communications challenge moving forward.
Firstly, there was a strong desire for older generations to pass on their skills and knowledge to a younger generation within many of these projects. And hearing the words of wisdom from their elders seemed to be incredibly impactful. At R:evolve Clothing, it was the older people in the community that inspired the “make do and mend” approach for the boutique; and at Bicester Green many of the volunteers were retired but had years of insight and experience they wanted to share.
Secondly, reverting to the norm of repairing, reusing, sharing and donating things is far from dull. MAKLab has 3D printers, a workshop, and an event space that wouldn’t be out of place in a Silicon Valley start-up, right in the heart of Glasgow. It’s getting hands on with a project and being creative that many people crave, perhaps as a distraction from the typically more sedentary workplace.
Thirdly, all the teams behind these inspiring projects had such determination to succeed. Something lit the fire in their belly and if we want to cultivate this culture in others we have to find the spark that will make them dream too. For me that comes from hearing the human stories, the emotional journeys and the personal impacts within the community.
What Spurs You On?
All those themes could be what inspires someone to take action. But equally important is how they hear about these alternatives and what spurs them on. Rather than playing different channels off against each other, I’m a firm believer that you need to get that message across in many different ways. What works for some people, may not be the thing that triggers change in others so using a variety of channels with a consistent message is really going to give you the maximum impact.
That’s why we’re increasingly combining door-stepping, with leaflets, with events, with PR, with social media and advertising and marketing to focus on a clear message from all touchpoints.
We’ve all seen how impactful a clear, simple and consistent message can be on changing opinion and behaviour in the UK and the US in recent months. The campaign slogans of ‘Take back control’ and ‘Make America great again’ were certainly that, even if the facts behind them questionable and subjective. Yet, for many it’s all too tempting to introduce the detail up front and for many people that is the thing that alienates them from the message.
If we’re going to deliver change in the waste and resources industry, we need to continue to come together and use that clear, simple and consistent message. A message that will help us deliver a resource revolution.