Letâ€™s face the music and danceâ€¦
The papers are awash with stories of economic disaster, with images of bankers losing their jobs, empty shelves at Woolworths, and gloom and doom stories about what is still to comeâ€¦
Times are indeed difficult but I believe the challenge we face economically can, and should, benefit the environment, and ultimately benefit everyone. For too long the majority of us have danced around the idea of living more sustainably. Now we are faced with a recession, the possibility of job losses and the fear of debt hanging over us, this may be the â€˜tipping pointâ€™ required to push us into living more sustainably â€“ the need to spend less, reuse more and find cheaper alternatives to everyday goods and transport modes overtaking the days of excess and waste.
The days of excess may be over but thatâ€™s not a bad thing. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of the Black Swan, a book which forecast the slump says â€â€¦good wine, restaurantsâ€¦will all become cheaper nowâ€.
However, itâ€™s not just the reduced cost of luxury goods that we should be focusing on. More may holiday in Britain, rather than paying for flights to destinations abroad. Environmentally this is only a good thing. Cutting the amount of flights we take each year will have a dramatic effect on our individual carbon footprints. Measure your footprint at www.carbonfootprint.com to see how much it can be reduced by avoiding flying as much as you did in the past.
Even the Chairman of Mastercard is waxing lyrical, â€œPeople will spend less time feeding their wallets and more time feeding their soulsâ€. A society obsessed with material possessions, the latest Hermes handbag at Â£5000 anyone?, is not a happy society. If our focus is solely on the latest fashions and gadgets, the most exclusive holidays, then this promotes anguish if we canâ€™t afford them, competition between family and friends for who has what and how much – ultimately all negative and disparaging. Instead, if we aim towards an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling and socially just society, everything and everyone who occupy the planet benefits positively.
We may start to change our attitudes to other issues like the Olympics. Seen by some as an expensive waste of time, it could be viewed as a Keynesian boost to the economy.
If you are a business, reducing energy use makes perfect business sense; it saves money and enhances your organisationâ€™s reputation. Increasing numbers of customers are asking for an organisationâ€™s â€˜green credentialsâ€™. What would your response be? Would it attract more custom or turn people away?
Theatres and other cultural institutions now have an enormous amount of materials at hand to help reduce their energy consumption and save money. Take a look at www.greeningtheatres.com if you are a theatre, music venues should check out www.juliesbicycle.com, the Arts Council have an eco-toolkit for arts organisations, to measure energy use and reduce it, http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/aboutus/project_detail.php?rid=8&id=379, and all other businesses could saves thousands by following advice given on www.carbontrust.co.uk. Many of the steps towards becoming greener are easy and cost nothing.
Thus political, social and environmental attitudes may, and more importantly should, change. If new, more sustainable ways of living become increasingly attractive to the majority rather than the minority, we will produce less waste, emit fewer emissions and treat it other more respectfullyâ€¦the opportunities for becoming more sustainable are endless. Join Freecycle and swap goods rather than buy new ones, start cycling and help reduce congestion on the roads, buy ingredients rather than frozen and over-packaged prepared meals, join local action groups like the Transition Town movement and meet locals with similar interests, hold a dinner party rather than meeting friends at expensive gastro pubs.
Businesses will need to take heed of these changes and adapt their services accordingly. Whatever we do, we are moving into a new era, itâ€™s up to us to make sure we choose the right direction.
Anna Beech, Sustainability Project Manager, Arcola Theatre, firstname.lastname@example.org
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