I was recently invited to join a class of film students in their final year at Newport University to discuss how to get environmental topics onto TV. Not a BBC2 or Radio 4 public broadcast type documentary, there are plenty of them, and frankly they are too worthy and preachy. What was being discussed was a way to get incredibly important messages out there onto BBC1, ITV1 and Channel 4. To create a show that would appeal to those that are not already recycling and buying responsibly for whatever reason. What came out was of genuine interest to those that attended, contrary to what they were expecting.
By throwing a few facts at these students their ears started to prick up and their enthusiasm for the topic grew. Almond growers in America have removed so much natural vegetation in order to increase their yields and maximise the number of trees they can cram into their monoculture farms that they have removed the one thing they need to pollinate their precious almonds. They have taken away the habitat for the bees and birds, the bugs and beetles that actually enable the flowers to pollinate each year. Tens of millions of dollars are now being spent each harvest on articulated lorries filled with tens of thousands of bee hives being brought in to pollinate the crops. The natural wildlife they have “removed” also controls the pests they spend so much money on trying to eradicate. The irony is only too clear. In China it has gone a step further with people now standing on ladders to pollinate by hand.
With the exception of conservation it’s interesting to note how some supply chains have evolved over time and how that has affected the people in the supply chain. Who sets the price for raw sugar beet for example? Is it the local traders buying from the small-holders; is it the large multinationals that buy sugar for their production? No. The price of sugar beet is set by city bankers in New York and London, Paris and Hong Kong. They decide how much a pound or kilo of sugar is worth. Is it based on the amount of money or work that has gone into producing the crop? No, it’s based on speculation, profit and loss. Their decision is made by how much money they can make or how to reduce their losses and that’s ludicrous.
It was agreed that certain things were too big to discuss as individuals could do nothing about it. The students wanted to create a show that would enable people to turn off after viewing and actually feel whatever steps they took were worthwhile. Small actions on a mass scale do make a huge difference. Many had heard the myths and misinformation that still abound about making recycled paper, “isn’t it worse for the environment than making regular virgin paper”. They had heard recycled plastic “could not be used for food packaging as it may contain poisonous substances picked up in the processing”. They were frustrated with claims from manufacturers that were meaningless or misleading with regards to the credentials of the item in question. All this conflicting information had left them paralysed and unable to commit to environmental issues.
As an industry we must be clear with our end users – their small steps do make a difference. As distributors you have to inform end users that many of these myths simply are not true. As resellers it is not good enough to say “well my supplier says its eco friendly”. If you want to add value in this climate of web based, homogenised, commodity products you have to give them some advice and hold their hands. They will appreciate the guidance and you can stand out from the crowd.