This year London exceeded safe legal air limits, in fact for the past 4 years they have been missing EU targets on air quality and are currently beginning to face up to the prospect of fines for this as the legal proceedings get underway. They have already been given an extra 5 years to comply, but London is unlikely to reach the required levels until 2025 with their current efforts.

It seems strange however, and particularly when you look at the grim statistics; with 29,000 deaths a year caused by this, about the same amount as smokers and a huge number when compared to the amount to the 1,713 deaths in reported road traffic accidents in Great Britain. You can check how your area fairs in the table on pg 10). Although momentum now seems to be building, why does there still not seem to be much of a public outcry or real action to cut this drastically? Perhaps it’s something to do with the creation of it, burning for energy, cars on the road……..all so called contributing to our economy.

There are some great resources available but as yet still not fully used or touching many peoples awareness. If you can’t see it (although now with more frequent smog and weather warnings), is it harder to worry, understand or care about?

Creating Connections and Raising Awareness

This brings to mind a number of other examples where it is more difficult perhaps to see the danger we are in or the damage caused to the environment by actions and choices by ourselves and others.


Recently at the London Circular Jam a team took on water usage, Sebastian. Looking at how to grow awareness and responsibility in sustainable water usage. Creating a direct feedback to the users of the effect to others (in this case goldfish) of their actions.


This also reminded me of one of this years RCA Sustain. projects: The Colour of Air from Tino Seubert – Where the pollution becomes visible through absorption in you clothing. Maybe we’d think more about the pollution we walk through if we’re wearing it.


In 2013 Keep Britain Tidy in their Which Side of the Fence are you on? campaign, also highlighted the actual amount of litter thrown on the street and the associated costs with cleaning it up by working with councils to only clean one side of an area while leaving the other to “naturally” accumulate. Too often this is hidden from the public as it is continually cleaned up. Only when confronted, or have to walk through it do we begin to notice the scale.

street litter

What remains to be seen  and measured from these approaches, creative communications, is how they can move the debate forward and may grow to create longer lasting changes, behaviour, products, systems or policy.




Waste, Resources and the Circular Economy

How can we apply the same approach for raising awareness about our complicated relationship with limited resources, about the supply chain webs, the scale of this interconnected global economy, materials and stuff made, transported, used and disposed of all around the world. As well as the lives of the people behind their mining and making. What direct feedback or tangible visual experience can even begin to capture this?

In the Urbin Issue, one area highlighted by members of the public was that on a very local level our waste & recycling systems had become too formalised, lost the interaction and become hidden behind closed industrialised doors. What difference can you really see first hand between residual waste collections and recycling (apart from maybe some printing on the truck)?  Nothing is revealed as to the story of our product’s lives, where they go and what they become.

On the front-end, design and making, Fairphone have started the journey on transparency and ethical considerations of their supply chain, also recognise they have a long way to go. Others such as T-Shirt, clothing company Rapanui are also leading the way in growing awareness and linking sustainable and ethical considerations.

However before people get to this stage, or find their way to these few examples of how things could and should be done, they need to be awakened to the alternatives and to the problem, issue. How can we bring resource use, the amount, the scale of the waste really into the public’s conscious to both raise their understanding and ability to do something about it. Alongside this knowing that public opinion is a powerful force for business and political change.

Out of sight, out of mind; water usage and pollution, air pollution, litter levels, resource use and waste our environment is in trouble and therefore the planets population, and our current systems are still trying to hide it. How can we grow widespread acknowledgement of these issues, engage and most importantly take action to change them!

Going back to those goldfish ……..we also need to create a memory that will last.

I think there must be some other great example out there of making the invisible visible, so please share and I can compile them for inspiration.


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