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Young people urged to think creatively to reinvent the wheel on waste

Young people urged to think creatively to reinvent the wheel on waste

Experts in the fields of food waste, sustainable fashion and plastic pollution came together to encourage young people to think creatively and tenaciously and re-design a future where there is no waste, during ‘The world needs… Creative Innovators’, a virtual event hosted by ACS International School Hillingdon.

Dianna Cohen, an artist famed for using plastic as her primary material and Co-Founder and CEO of Plastic Pollution Coalition, joined the event from Los Angeles, California, to share the dangers of plastic existing in our eco-system, while highlighting prevention as the greatest cure to pollution. To solve the plastic waste crisis, she encouraged the audience to think like artists and designers and “imagine what a world free of plastic pollution looks like and then work backwards to how we can achieve it.

“We are in the wild west, there is no ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking because there is no box, just gaps to be filled and our imaginations are our greatest tools.”

Supporting Dianna’s message of ‘prevention’ over ‘cure’ was Adam Smith, UK-based professional chef, founder of award-winning global initiative The Real Junk Food Project and now CEO of Surplus to Purpose, who told the audience of his compelling journey to tackling food waste through social projects, but urged that his aim is to ultimately “put himself out of business”. “I want to live in a world where people don’t need foodbanks and where there is not this sort of waste or overproduction.”

When asked what individuals can do to reduce food waste, Adam advised that onus needs to be put back on industry: “A lot of responsibility is passed onto consumers, but this is frustrating. It is the big corporations and retailers that are overproducing, overfilling shelves, advertising junk food and manipulating the public to buy and waste food. Industry has a huge role to play in reducing food waste and we need to put pressure on the big players.”

The final speaker, joining from Malawi, Africa, was Vanessa Nsona, a sustainable fashion designer and social entrepreneur. Vanessa spoke about how, when she was just a school girl, she was inspired to start turning waste products, such as old jeans, shoes and scrap metal, into beautiful fashion accessories. As demand grew for her products, she established Dorovee, a social enterprise which aims to train young and vulnerable women to craft fashion and interior accessories using waste materials and indigenous Malawian materials, while providing opportunities for them to generate an income and be part of a community.

A message echoed by all three speakers was that all future materials should be reusable and regenerative, and that all creators should be designing from that perspective. Dianna commented: “Many forget that nature does not create waste, but we are too busy extracting and burning and releasing greenhouse gases to see the valuable, renewable resources around us. We need to pause and rethink.”

Summing up, Martin Hall, Head of School, ACS Hillingdon, commented:

“Waste pollution is a pressing environmental issue, not just in the UK but around the world and, during ‘The world needs… Creative Innovators’, it was inspiring to hear from three imaginative and entrepreneurial individuals, from three different continents, about what they are doing to tackle pollution and consumption, while having a positive social impact too.

“ACS Hillingdon has a highly creative community of students, teachers and parents and I hope all event attendees felt inspired by the speakers’ shared message that artists, designers and creators have the power to reinvent the wheel on waste. By thinking imaginatively and creating meaningful collaborations, the current generation of young people can change the way things are produced and consumed in the future – ultimately preventing waste for the benefit of the planet’s health and human health.”

The world needs… Creative innovators’ is the third and final event in ACS’s 2021-22 ‘What the World Needs’ series, which focused on building a sustainable future. Through the experiences of high-profile innovative speakers, attendees have discovered the skills and attributes needed to successfully contribute to the United Nation’s (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Climate Action, Good Health and Wellbeing, and Responsible Consumption.

A recording of ‘The world needs…Creative innovators’ can be found here:

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