Full Climate Crisis. Forest fires. Plastic Pollution. Collapsing Ecosystems. Mass Extinction. Animals and people going hungry - all of these feel real yet somehow intangible - intangible, not because they’re beyond my awareness or experience, but because they are GARGANTUAN.
The threats to our world are on a scale bigger than I can imagine, it feels way beyond my own ability to comprehend the vast web of interconnectedness. In this reflection I am reminded that all things are connected and as with the butterflies wings, whose beating shapes the world beyond, so is each small action important on the journey to regenerating our planet’s natural health.
So at TEDxBristol we are, in our own way, beating our butterfly wings! With each event, we try to support positive change, turning up the volume on voices, giving a platform to world-changing ideas and inspiring people to live, work and play in new and meaningful ways. From the plastic we flush down the toilets, to baby boomers coming out of retirement to champion climate activism, or workshops on how to handle the very modern phenomenon of 'climate anxiety', we've made environmental conversations centre stage.
But at this year’s event we wanted to go beyond the stage, put our money where our mouth is if you like, and go behind the scenes to examine how TEDxBristol could not only be good for humanity’s hearts and minds, but also good for the welfare of our Planet. So we started our #SmartPlanet steering group, with the aim of being as 'zero waste' as possible.
We teamed up with Bristol Old Vic, 1766 Bar and Kitchen, Bristol Water, Bristol Waste, and City to Sea to creatively tackle the challenges that we set. I will be honest - it's not been easy. Every organisation has its own way of working, and there are lots of contractual and red-tape type things to cut through, but together we are creating a web of interdependent relationships between local organisations and businesses that share the same values and love for our planet. This challenge is in its infancy this year, and through collaborating with like-minded partners, groups, and individuals, we are getting there and are really excited and proud to be on the way to becoming a zero waste and carbon neutral event.
To rethink how we do things we asked ourselves several questions: What are the smart things we can do to use less resources while making a big impact? How do we encourage using less “stuff” while creating more connection? How can we move beyond being sustainable or resilient to being truly regenerative?
To begin the reboot, we focused on some easy wins - some decisions were straightforward, others were more challenging. We looked at different aspects of the event: from ticketing, to travel, to catering, to working in new ways with our partners. We are learning too: who ever thought that studying logistics on using reusable cups would collectively take 128 hours!!!
So - what are we doing differently this year? Goodbye delegate lanyards, printed tickets, paper programmes, plastic bottles onstage, branded cotton bags and t-shirts...so-long flyers and random giveaways. Hello experiences, deeper connections, moments of reflection, workshops on climate action, digital content and LED lighting where possible. We've also reused our t-shirts, tablecloths, bags and signs from 2017. That felt most satisfying!
We want to be transparent and share the lessons we’ve taken from this. Our butterfly effect will hopefully be to influence events of all sizes to closely reflect, rethink and reboot their use of “stuff” and impact on our Planet.
In the days leading up to TEDxBristol's event I have been waking up thinking - have we done enough? When it comes to caring for our planet we have so much to do as a species! But what I am proud to think is that as an event we have made a great start to taking responsibility where we can and we hope that everyone who joins us this year will walk away inspired and energised to do more in their own way. Just keep on beating those beautiful wings. Then before you know it the feeling of helplessness and insignificance subsides, replaced by the promise of positive change through small actions.