Only One Earth - Can it be a world without waste?

The production of construction materials accounts for 50% of all natural resource extraction in Europe, with the UK construction industry then responsible for circa 60 million tonnes of those resources being wasted annually through inefficient design or construction processes. That’s a shameful statistic, and to give it some context, 60 million tonnes is the approximate weight of the population of Europe. If we were to assess that scale of loss in human terms it would be unimaginable, but in planetary terms we disregard it because it doesn’t impact us on a personal level.

With wasted resource comes wasted profit potential; that’s when it makes impact at a project level, and only when things go so badly wrong that the cost of waste has a disastrous result on the profit, or loss, on a project is it given any form of consideration. This wasteful behaviour has dominated the construction industry for decades, and it could be argued that because it is so impersonal at an industry level, ambivalence towards it is ingrained at corporate and individual level.

In his book “Oversubscribed,” Daniel Priestly wrote:

Every time the world changes, it’s because of a campaign. The human rights movement was a campaign for change. The abolition of slavery was a campaign for change. The suffragette movement was a campaign for change. So many of the rights and privileges we now take for granted started out as a campaign for change. These campaigns took planning. These campaigners started small, warming people up to an idea, collecting signals that people were behind the movements. Then there came a tipping point in each campaign when enough people believed in the cause that it turned into a movement. Slowly at first then all at once things shifted. Some people shifted quickly and some needed convincing. After the transformation had happened, there were celebrations and stories. You can use the same campaigning tools to move the world in the right direction. Despite centuries of progress, we need to coordinate people now more than ever.

(Priestley, 2015)

Is it silly to think of such lofty ideas? It’s pointless unless we begin something. I’m not suggesting that waste is anywhere near the same magnitude of required change as human rights for example but change needs to start at a personal level.

I decided to act against the ambivalence I was witnessing.

And so, the idea for was born. The simple idea of a website using industry-led, crowdsourced waste data to drive improved waste forecasting and resource efficiency in the construction industry may not seem like the most inspiring of life changing moments, but it eventually led to me resigning from my full-time role in pursuit of driving change based on the purpose I’d found.

Think of Roy Scheider in the beach scene in ‘Jaws’ where the Hitchcock cinematography trick zoomed in on him. Refresh yourself of it; that was my moment.

The desire to make it happen was all-consuming; it completely absorbed anything else professionally and made everything else seem unimportant. My sole driver had become making this change a reality. Challenges to success seemed irrelevant; undulations rather than barriers which had to be traversed to achieve my goal. Challenge intensified my determination.

When I used to hear people talking about ‘purpose’, I thought of the standard narrative: family, mortgage etc. That’s not purpose. That’s life, responsibility. Purpose is more powerful than the standard narrative. Purpose is propellent. When you find it, it permeates into every aspect and every decision of your life, personally and professionally. The sense of positivity and ‘being’ that it produces is overwhelming and addictive.

My journey is not complete just because the website is live. Nor has my sense of purpose waned. Now is when the challenge begins, and the purpose is tested.

Why not join my campaign for change?

Sign up to receive regular updates from SCAPE, including the latest from our news, blogs and Insight Magazine.