I was delighted to have been invited to attend the Blue Earth Summit in Bristol this year. It was the second time the summit had run, but my first time there.
While I could only attend the first day, I learned a lot and met some fascinating people.
Here are just a few of the moments that caught my attention along with some fascinating concepts and ideas I discovered during the day.
In the beginning, a new hope
The day opened with a rousing introduction from Lord-Lieutenant Mrs Peaches Golding, followed by a short, but intriguing presentation from Caroline Dennette.
Caroline told the story of how she fired her largest client, Shell, as she could no longer reconcile the differences between her beliefs and the actions of her client. This was awarded by a rapturous round of applause.
Caroline then let the crowd wanting more, much more, as she promised to return in the near future with a brand new type of energy that was renewable, and free for the entire planet.
Offering promises that more information would be shared once scientific peer-review had been concluded she left the stage and left us all in wonder.
— Well, that’s interesting tech (@1nterestingTech) October 11, 2022
I found myself torn between the different panel discussions and presentations - there were so many interesting topics. Here are a few of the points that caught my attention in the handful of sessions I could attend.
Space For Good?
Melissa Thorp from the UK's first space port in Cornwall, Spaceport Cornwall, talked about their work to set the bar for more sustainable space exploration.
Melissa mentioned that they were the first, of all their global Virgin Orbit spaceport colleagues, to pursue a sustainability agenda.
As a horizontal lift-off operator they use 'traditional' aircraft to take their rockets high into the atmosphere, before they launch. This method is less harmful to the environment than vertical lift-offs, and the majority of the emissions come from flying the specialised Boeing aircraft from the US to the UK to facilitate the launch.
Melissa and her fellow panellists highlighted the many ways satellites are a force for good down here on Earth, such as saving lives during emergencies, helping conservation efforts, advance weather monitoring and forecasting, and discovering hidden resources on our planet.
Antonion Rodenas from the ESA talked about how the life support systems of the ISS drove development of carbon capture technologies, and how those advancements are now being used to improve terrestrial carbon sequestration technologies.
Antonion all led the discussion on the challenges and risks of space junk.
Spaceport Cornwall's first satellite to launch will be a community satellite designed to monitor costal health.
Melissa Thorpe from @SpaceCornwall - Everyone is using satellites today. Satellites save lives, enrich our lives, makes things more efficient. But we have to fix the launch to stop damaging the planet #besummit22 pic.twitter.com/49mEYauvr1
— Well, that’s interesting tech (@1nterestingTech) October 11, 2022
Diversity: Blindspot, After thought or Missed Opportunity
Dulma Clark (Vivo Barefoot) was joined by Phil Young (Mighty Mighty), Naveed Bakhsh (Boots & Beards) to discuss the topic of diversity from their perspectives of starting outdoor activity businesses.
The conversation didn't really get to answer the premise of the panel, but nevertheless there were a few interesting points that caught my attention.
Naveed ("Nav") made a comment that regardless of race, religion, geography or sexual orientation, most people on this planet share a common desire - for our environment to remain as magnificent, as awe-inspiring and, most importantly as habitable as possible.
Nav's venture "Boots & Beards" was set up to help people deal with the stress and stain of modern life, enabling them to feel reenergised and de-stressed by putting them in touch with the nature that surrounds them.
Phil made a couple of points that caught my attention to. He said that when it comes to better engaging minority communities governments and enterprises need to stop projecting perceived wants and desires on to people they don't understand.
Phil suggested that simply replacing images of white people with those of people of colour is missing the point entirely. Apart from underlying human needs and shared ideal that Nav mentioned, Phil said the marketing messaging is often not just misaligned with minority audiences, but can be insensitive or insulting.
Phil also mentioned something that resonates with the point I make in this video. Humans find it difficult to understand, let alone feel passionately about things they haven't experienced. As such, it's pointless trying to get the father of a young family, living on the 8th floor of an apartment building in Hackney to care about polar bears or melting ice caps. Instead, he'd be much more likely to want to deal with the air pollution that is causing misery to his young asthmatic son.
Phil - people don’t care about the things they’ve not experienced. Stop asking them to save the ice caps, but they do care about air pollution and their child’s health living in the cities #besummit22 pic.twitter.com/idc7ad8RyS— Well, that’s interesting tech (@1nterestingTech) October 11, 2022
Talking about diversity, Phil Young says ‘we must stop companies, governments taking the “I think we know what this community needs” approach and acknowledge that communities might actually know what they need. create new narratives. #besummit22 pic.twitter.com/YJBcE3tqMj— Well, that’s interesting tech (@1nterestingTech) October 11, 2022
Zero Carbon Forum - Sustainable future for hospitality
The panel session moderated by Zero Carbon Forum's Mark Chapman didn't hold any punches and gave a lot to think about.
There was a lot of good things in this conversation, including the importance of telling stories to inspire people (yes, that was music to my ears!) - in fact the phrase "Storytelling for Impact" was mentioned, and I think that's going to be my new tag-line ... Well, That's Interesting Tech - storytelling for impact. Yes, sold. Anyway...
Given that the topic was themed on hospitality, the challenges of finding staff was sure to come up, and it did. Interestingly, and following the point I've made on several occasions, one of the ways companies are finding to retain and attract staff is to try to make their rolls more purposeful.
However, as Tim Grant (Caffeine Collective) pointed out, that can be a challenge for kitchen porter and barrister roles. Sarah Bentley (Made In Hackney) said that they'd had great progress in retention from having one pay-grade across the business. Although after eight years they added a second grade to recognise the additional effort and mental capacity required from team leaders.
Perhaps the two most powerful head-nodding moments came from Sarah. The first point she made that nearly made me stand up and clap was that switching to sustainable packaging or "doing something with algae" is all very well, but until we concentrate on lift all our people out of poverty, we simply won't change a thing.
The second punch-the-air moment came when the panel was discussing how to convince consumers to spend more on sustainable options, even in times of financial difficulty.
There was much discussion around the power of hospitality to persuade people, and even the premium hospitality can charge just because you are somewhere different (such as the mark-up on wine that restaurants charge).
Sarah, thankfully, gave a different perspective. She suggested that it was in the power of hospitality to invert the green premium (e.g. sustainable products that cost more) and make the sustainable option not just a better sustainability decision, but a better financial decision too - e.g lower priced than the less sustainable choice.
This is a point I've made before too - Since human habits can be difficult to change, increase pricing on the less sustainable choices to fund price reductions on this more sustainable. This could be a relatively short term intervention because over time, the more sustainable will drop in price as demand and volume rises
Mark Chapman leads, in my opinion, the most engaging panel session of #besummit22 so many head-nodding moments in the last hour and I’m glad the “green premium” got inverted! Nice work to all panelists! @forum_carbon @madeinhackney pic.twitter.com/XQguBI2f64— Well, that’s interesting tech (@1nterestingTech) October 11, 2022
Sarah Bentley, Made in Hackney - sustainable packaging or doing something with algae is all very well, but until we look at how to lift all our people out of poverty we’re not talking sustainability #besummit22 pic.twitter.com/ePHE1VvqSC— Well, that’s interesting tech (@1nterestingTech) October 11, 2022