Photo credit: UC Photography
I once worked for an education and advocacy not-for-profit (the Global Poverty Project) that organises music festivals to raise money and awareness for anti-poverty causes. The first festival, The End of Polio Concert, culminated in $118 million being pledged towards the global polio eradication initiative by governments and corporations around the world. I remember what the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, said when making Britain’s pledge: “When doing good is this easy, doing nothing is unacceptable.”
By creating a platform to rally around, we can make it very easy for others to take action – be it through donating, changing their behaviours, or spreading the message themselves.
In terms of the type of events you can run, the possiblities are endless! Of course you don’t have to go big and organise a concert. Prompted by next week being Fashion Revolution Week, I’m sharing five ideas for events that you could organise for your school, workplace or community:
Photo credit: Jarad Seng
1. Host a sustainability film screening
Why: The fashion industry has far-reaching negative impacts on people and the planet. Not only is it the second highest polluting industry in the world after the oil industry, it produces high amounts of waste, with people throwing out 60 odd items of clothing per year. Further, it is often responsible for human rights violations and exploitation, with people working for low wage, sometimes in slave-like conditions. It’s important that we raise awareness about how greater transparency in supply chains will help us achieve a better and more sustainable world.
What: Organise a screening of a film or documentary highlighting a sustainable issue. A suggestion for Fashion Revolution Day is the documentary True Cost, which focuses on the impacts of the fashion industry on environment and people.
Attendees could pay a small entry fee and you could arrange to donate the money to a fair trade organisation (like Oxfam). Or you could make it a free, awareness-raising event – with a social media advocacy component (i.e. get people to tweet #whomademyclothes to the brands that made the clothes that they wear to the screening).
If you wanted to, you could try and contact the founder of a Fairtrade brand or relevant organisation to speak about the issues before or after the screening.
2. Host a ‘crafternoon’ and create a ‘zero waste kit’
Suggested occasion: Earth Day (April).
Why: Encourage people to really notice how much stuff we throw out everyday, and how much of it is or is not biodegradable. For example:
- Plastic – paper coffee cups are often coated with plastic on the inside of the cup which means that they are not biodegradable – but an alternative is to get a reusable cup. Toothbrushes are made of plastic and the bristles are nylon – but there are alternatives made of bamboo that you can buy online. Shopping bags obviously cause significant pollution problems – which can be avoided through using cotton shopping bags.
- Polyester – Most of our clothes are made of polyester which sometimes doesn’t break down for 200 years! If you think of how many polyester clothes we wear and throw out each year, that’s a lot of nonbiodegradable clothes going into landfill.
- Organic waste – A lot of our waste is organic. (i.e. food we don’t use before its expiry date, or food scraps from meal preparation). This organic waste could go to landfill, or back onto a garden. Hardly anyone I know who is my age composts, but it’s relatively easy to begin with a starter kit, or by finding a local composting centre.
What: Have attendees create a portable kit, which includes everything they would ever need in order to minimise their day-to-day waste: reusable shopping bags; a keep cup and drink bottle; hankerchief/napkin; knife, fork and spoon; and a jar or bag or box to transport it all in.
You could make it super sustainable by collecting jars and fabric cut-offs from op shops to create the napkins. Or, engage a local fair trade business that stocks all of these things to help you out!
3. Host a Fairtrade stall
Suggested occasions: World Fair Trade Day (May); Mothers’ Day; Fathers’ Day; Christmas.
Why: I am firmly of the belief that Fair Trade needs more air time – the more people who know about it, the better. Especially because sometimes we buy any old gift, not really knowing what our gift recipient wants. It makes sense to avoid needless consumerism by at least making sure that the gift we are buying is ethically sourced, and gives back to the community where it was made. And besides, ethical gifts are so beautiful.
What: Create a little stall sharing Fairtrade goods to coincide with World Fair Trade Day. Or, stock your stall with fairly traded gifts for mums or dads around Mothers’ or Fathers’ Day.
You could have a Fairtrade tasting session where passers-by can try different samples of Fairtrade goods (the common ones are coffee, tea and chocolate, but there are also Fairtrade certified soft drinks, sugar, alcohol, etc.) – and while they are at your stall, you can explain the benefits of Fairtrade.
4. Organise a letter writing session
Suggested occasion: Any time, but particularly effective just before an election!
Why: Our voice is one of the most powerful gifts we have, and it’s free! After all, politicians care about our opinions (they rely on our votes for their job). Businesses care about our opinions, too (they rely on our purchases for their profits). So use your voice to catalyse change by telling them your opinion and how they can do better for your community and the world.
What: Organise a letter writing session where you encourage your guests to use advocacy to effect change. It could be by writing a letter to a political representative to get government to take action on an issue that is important to you; or even by writing a letter to a local coffee shop urging them to switch to Fairtrade coffee.
5. Host a clothes swap
Suggested occasion: Any time.
Why: Because we each throw out, on average, 60 items of clothing per year, and swapping clothes is better than throwing them out or donating them where they often end up in landfill anyway or shipped to the developing world where they undermine the local economy.
What: An oldie but a goodie – the idea of a clothes swap is simple: invite a bunch of friends over to your place and instruct them to bring their clothes that they no longer wish to keep. Then, ‘shop’ each other’s wardrobe. As they say, one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure.
- Strike a deal where the cafes around your work or on your college/university campus offer a discount for reusable cups on Earth Day.
- Strike a deal with a local co-op whereby you promote the co-op at your work or school and the people you refer to the co-op get a free or discounted lunch or product when they visit. Your colleagues and classmates can learn more about how they can bring their own containers to the co-op (and shop in a way that wastes less plastics) and the co-op gets more business… win-win!
- Create a cute campaign with flyers, or an image to share on social media to provide information on and raise awareness for an issue that you care about.
- Organise a tour of a local waste management facility for your friends or colleagues to see what goes on in a composting, trash and recycling centre.
I hope this gives you some ideas for a sustainability event at your school or workplace! If you’ve never hosted an event, I hope this inspires you to do so, because the platform you have to advocate for change is super exciting.
2016 Sustainability Events
18 – 24 Fashion Revolution Week
24 Fashion Revolution Day
22 Earth Day
9 – 15 Australian National Volunteer Week
14 World Fair Trade Day
5 World Environment Day
8 World Oceans Day
11 – 17 Anti Poverty Week
17 International Day for the Eradication of Poverty
18 – 23 Australian National Water Week
24 UN Day
6 International Day for Preventing Exploitation of the Environment in Armed Conflict
7 – 11 Australian National Recycling Week
11 Australian National Walk to Work Day
5 International Volunteer Day
10 Human Rights Day