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Past Events Talking Points: Innovative Ways To Reduce Our Environmental Footprint

Talking Points: Innovative Ways To Reduce Our Environmental Footprint

Gardening crafts made with recycled plastic bottles, environmental awareness is important to save our planet
Photo: Getty Images
By Lee Williamson
By Lee Williamson
June 19, 2020
Gen.T hosted a panel at the Virtual Conscious Festival, speaking to three climate change-makers working to solve our carbon and plastic addictions

Talking Points is a semi-regular series where we highlight some of the key topics discussed at a Generation T keynote, fireside chat or panel discussion.

Ninety percent of all plastic produced isn't recycled, meaning at least 8 million tonnes of plastic waste ends up in the ocean every year. Our throwaway culture is threatening not only our natural world, but our food systems and our health.

Parallel to this, the Australian forest fires in January showed the world that death and destruction as a result of global warming is no longer a hypothetical future threat—it’s very much at our door. The UN report released last year—that terrifying one that reported we have 12 years to prevent climate change catastrophe—stated that carbon pollution would have to be cut by 45 percent by 2030. Last year, carbon dioxide emissions actually increased by 2.6 percent.

WUHAN, CHINA - OCTOBER 29: (CHINA OUT) A worker sorts used plastic bottles at a plastics recycling mill which is ceasing production as the global financial crisis starts to bite in China's recycling industry on October 29, 2008 in Wuhan of Hubei Province, China. Many of China's recycling mills and farms are being forced to stop collecting recyclable scrap materials due to the nose-diving order prices as those of oil, metal and other commodities have plunged worldwide amid a worsening economic outlook.  (Pho
Photo: Getty Images

Clearly, we are in desperate need of innovative solutions. To discuss this and more, Gen.T editor Lee Williamson was joined by three speakers who are fighting these two battles on various fronts, for a panel at The Virtual Conscious Festival. 

The panel

Douglas Woodring is the founder of Ocean Recovery Alliance, a non-profit focused on using technology and new ways of thinking to solve the issues that face the health of the ocean. Doug is also a member of the 2020 Tribe, a panel of industry experts we consult when selecting candidates for the Gen.T List.

Josie Stoker is the co-founder of Capture, an app described as a Fitbit for carbon footprint, which helps its users track, reduce and offset their carbon.

Markus Gnirck is head of Asia operations at Oceanworks, an online marketplace that connects the suppliers and buyers of plastic recovered from the ocean.


Watch the video above to see the panel in full, or read below for a few excerpts from the conversation. 

It starts with regulation

Douglas Woodring "How did the world respond to the coronavirus so quickly? Basically, that was due to regulation. The whole world followed a public policy and leadership very quickly with no democracy, actually. I'm not saying we need dictatorships, but there has to be all hands on deck. We saw a very different type of thinking [in the response to Covid-19] and now we have proven that it works. We need to apply that approach to the environment"

We need to undo the damage we've already done

Josie Stoker "To stay within the 1.5-degree warming goal, we need to reduce ten billion tonnes of CO2 by the middle of the century, then a further 20 billion tons by the end of this century. So in terms of sucking C02 out of the atmosphere, yes we're going to have to do it, it's just a matter of when is that technology ready?"

Asian consumers have a huge part to play

Markus Gnirck "The Millennial generation in Asia are getting environmentally conscious very fast. If you look at China or Vietnam, they turned to bamboo straws overnight; in Germany it took 10 years to get there. The young generation in Asia is getting to the beach, seeing the plastic and changing their consumer behaviour very fast. People are open to new ideas. And it's all up for grabs for whoever comes first with something new and exciting and using less plastic. Asia is the first place where that's happening"

We need to throw the snowball down the hill

Plastic straws make up only 0.025 percent of plastic in the ocean, and yet removing plastic straws from restaurants and bars, despite the huge amount of plastic used elsewhere in these venues, is very much the cause of the moment for large food and beverage conglomerates.

For Douglas Woodring, that's not green washing, it's taking an important first step. "You need to throw the snowball down the hill to start building that momentum," says Woodring. "If someone tells me they stopped using plastic straws, I say, 'Okay, that's great, you took the first step. Now we have 100 more'. But it's great because it starts them thinking: What about the plastic wrapped around that banana, did I need that? What about the plastic balloons that I didn't even think of? Straws start the discussion, and we need to get that momentum any way we can, take it and use it." 

For details of Gen.T's upcoming talks and experiences, explore our Events page. 


Past Events Talking Points Sustainability Environment Plastic Carbon Pollution The Conscious Festival


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