Naresh Ramchandani reveals how creativity can inspire a sustainable life
Naresh Ramchandani looks at how creativity can spark a greener life
Iam privileged to be one of the people who runs a non-profit public service called Do The Green Thing. We use world-class creativity to inspire as many people as possible to live more sustainably, and have done so for 10 years.
I say 10 years, because 10 is interesting. We like to celebrate and commemorate the world in 10s – 10th birthdays, 20th anniversaries, 50-year lease extensions – because most of us humans have 10 fingers and humanity is self-centred.
And because we’re self-centred, we consume as much as we do, fly or drive or Uber wherever we can, buy as much as we want, walk around in well-lit and well-heated homes any time of the year, refusing to consider what it means for others in other parts of the world, or for generations to come.
We’re raising sea levels, creating floods and droughts, making climate migrants, increasing epidemics and accelerating extinction – but that’s all fine because we’re living the way we want.
Humanity is heading towards a precipice, and we know what to do to save ourselves, which is to tone down our many shades of rampant consumerism. But it’s an everyday struggle to do it, because the consequences are not on our watch, and the ones that are on our watch are not on our patch, and because right here right now we are presented with so many cool, indulgent and frankly tempting ways to be unsustainable, made delicious by innovation.
And when we look across at the principal campaigners – sandal wearers, tree huggers, climate scientists, all telling us what we ought to do, or rather, what we ought to do without, it’s just too easy not to be tempted.
So our approach is to use the same invention, design and communication that makes unsustainability so desirable, and use it to make sustainability just as attractive. To ditch the sandals, and walk in the minds and shoes of regular people, giving them the choice to be creative and the means to do it.
That’s the Do The Green Thing theory. Our flag is ‘Creativity vs Climate Change’, and we wave in various ways. Perhaps our biggest creative endeavour is to bring humour and its sibling, charm, to climate change communications. Climate change communication often wears its gravity and panic heavily: the need to scream produces a scream.
And while there’s nothing funny about global warming, a film that parodies our laziness in taking energy-greedy lifts, a poster that compares feet favourably to cars, another that asks you not only to cycle to work but to cycle back too; these and many other Do The Green Thing films, posters, poems and stories all bring a lightness to climate change communication that in our view is needed.
Seriousness works on a global level. But on an individual level seriousness can debilitate. It can cause us to feel there’s nothing meaningful we can do. So we do nothing.
But as long as humanity’s optimism remains, lightness has the magical effect of helping us to look up, look out, smile and try something. To take that step. In a soft but powerful way, lightness drives action.
Lightness can nudge us to act, but sometimes it takes more than a nudge. Sometimes delightful creativity needs to come at the end of a massive kick in the behind to the industries, companies, institutions and traditions that make it so hard for us to behave sustainably. We do it daringly.
We’ve dared to compare drivers’ rights organisations to the self-interested bullying of gun lobbies. We’ve dared to ask environmentally inclined music festivals why they insist on serving meat. We’ve dared to challenge Hollywood to wake up to its cultural power, to stop screening consumption gorgefests and to usher in green actions into the margins of its films, just as it helped to usher out smoking.
We’ve provoked or invoked Mercedes-Benz, Kate Moss, Universal Pictures, Steve Jobs, and even Santa Claus, always with charm, because we’re not activists, always with a view to disarming the damaging spell they weave over the consumers.
Yes, we say it as it is. And maybe this trait has harmed our ability to get funded, and stopped us getting long-term arrangements with brands and media to distribute our content. But it means we have the independence to make our work as sharp and brave as it can be, and that matters.
Our central creative quality has been our resourcefulness. In a resource-scarce world, much of our work has been creatively resourceful, starting with something old and having the imagination and freedom to turn it into something new.
The freedom to take old hangers and old wine glasses and combine them into new vases. The freedom to call for thousands of single gloves left on buses, trains and theatres across London, and turn them into low-cost, low carbon-cost pairs called Glove Love. The freedom to reinvent the online Christmas card as an anti-useless-gifting service, Ungifted, allowing you to pledge your valuable time to a friend in place of useless scented candles or bath bombs.
As a small team, we know what we can do, and we know what needs to be done, and we know we can’t do it all; not even close. So we aren’t afraid to ask others for help. We ask a farreaching and ever-widening circle of inspiringly talented and committed collaborators to help us on a more or less voluntary basis. The Paula Schers and Sir Quentin Blakes of this world, as well as the hundreds of brilliant thinkers, designers and communicators who have worked with us to create wonderful pieces of persuasion. With their efforts, Do The Green Thing has made ‘Creativity vs Climate Change’ a realised idea.
Together, our shades of creativity - lightness, daring and resourcefulness - deliver this one message. That when you take away consumption, there’s no need for deprivation – for a devoid and empty life – because you can fill it many times over with imagination.
That’s how we Do The Green Thing. If you’d like to help us do it, please get in touch, and let’s do something good.