What do our consumption and production patterns have to do with soil health? A whole lot, we say at Terrabiom. And it’s important to root this big, abstract construct down into a concrete, tangible context.
On 15.03.2022, a beautiful dialogue event exploring this took place at WWF Switzerland. For an evening, the dialogue on responsible consumption and production opened a space aimed at bringing the community together to solve our common challenges. It was an invitation for interested people from diverse walks of lives and across sectors to reflect on the calling question:
How can we enable responsible consumption and production patterns?
Terrabiom was invited to steward the environmental aspects of this complex topic. It proved to be a popular choice: of the >75 people at the event, 20 chose to join “the soil session”. This event was a promising step into finding common ground on moving in a regenerative direction through diving deep and sketching solutions for a world where we celebrate life, together.
Why: It's complicated
In our globalized world it’s often impossible to track the life story of a product back through the supply chain all the way to the place where its’ resources were taken from. The interconnected system which shapes our consumption and production patterns is complex and difficult to grasp. This comes at a high price: In 2022, we are facing challenging global problems including climate change, biodiversity loss, or socioeconomic injustice. All of these are intrinsically linked to the way we produce and consume, which are essential parts of our economy.
We urgently need a systemic change, so that our actions contribute to regenerating our communities and ecosystems, rather than eroding them. And we can only achieve this together: with participatory approaches and partnerships across sectors.
In Switzerland, we can look back on centuries of practice on navigating collective action. This small country at the heart of Europe is uniquely positioned to build on its history of collaboration and dialogue across language, religious and other barriers to enable societal transformation.
What: a dialogue evening
This is why collaboratio Helvetica, in partnership with One Planet Lab, invited to the dialogue on responsible consumption and production on 15.03.2022. For one evening, it opened a space aimed at bringing the community together to solve our common challenges, it invited interested people from diverse walks of lives and across sectors to reflect on the calling question:
How can we enable responsible consumption and production patterns?
Terrabiom was invited to steward the environmental aspects of this complex topic throughout the evening. A case for Christa Herrmann, co-founder, who chose to break down the magnitude of the main calling question into a personal approach as well as lifted off the pressure of “having to know & do it all”. Instead, she invited to explore:
What do I need to take responsibility for the environmental impact of my daily consumption?
Over 70 people followed the open invite and came together on this Tuesday evening to co-create a more live-friendly future in Zürich. Following an engaging introduction by the hosts, Dr. Ioana Marinica presented some of the latest scientific findings around sustainable consumer behaviour which she's researching as part of the National Research Project 73 (sustainable economy).
Ioana included a small engagement part, where the audience got to have their say on the same questions as asked in the larger on-going study. Everyone got to pick one statement out of 20 which they found most relevant for their own (non-)sustainable consumption behaviours. The majority of the evening's crowd thinks that:
It is hard to give up products I like, even if I know they are not good for the environment
Individual efforts have little effect if governments and industries don't take action
Moving to the dialogue part of the evening, about ¼ of them were intrigued by the environmental side and joined Terrabiom's group. This made for an engaged group which represented 4 different continents including producers and consumers, sustainability professionals, communication specialists, youth from Zug international school, and more. Despite the diverse backgrounds, we found a lot of common ground, growing from soil as an excellent entry point to highlight what we have in common over what may divide us. Everyone has a personal relationship with soil.
The following is a high-level summary of the dialogue which unfolded:
What do I need to take responsibility for the environmental impact of my daily consumption? and what may be potential solution sketches?
Hope: also coming from the outside. I cannot do it all alone.
Confirmation: that my own actions are going in the right direction. And that others are doing their part too, that I’m not doing this alone. We could search for, share with, and proactively exchange with a like-minded community
Simplification: the knowledge how to live sustainably has been around for centuries, and still is with indigenous communities. We could re:awake “common sense”; go back to the simple ways our grandparents lived
Focus: support in understanding where I should place my attention and resources. We would appreciate a guided discourse
Trust: to know who, and what, make the products I consume. Local economies enable direct contact and significantly higher trust
Kindness: be kind to myself, even if my actions may not be “perfect” (yet). We could embrace imperfection and start small, with simple actions, working towards greater objectives step by step
Open questions I hold:
How can I get started? “responsible consumption for beginners”
What can I do if I only have a very limited budget? Does it even matter?
How do I know which alternative is better, if there are multiple options of a product?
Why do we need to “know so much” and continue to have more facts and figures, when massive amounts of knowledge are already around?
Is the responsibility really with the consumer, if the lever is much larger at producer level ?
It’s incredibly difficult to be able to take informed choices
Responsibility at individual level seems achievable, but it’s much harder at institutional / systemic level
Why is the responsibility to solve todays' great problems put on young people's shoulders? How should we, who are just starting to dive into our live journeys, solve the large complex global problems which are a legacy of the previous generations and our ancestors, many who are still capable to take important decisions and actions right now? 16-year-old student, International School of Zug
Dialogues are very powerful as they can give room to topics to emerge which were not visible or expected. Two topic emerged from the respectful dialogue in the group.
The first was voiced by a brave 16-year-old and highlighted the immense pressure which is being put on young people to solve todays’ problems. How should children and youth, who are just starting to dive into their live journeys, solve the large complex global problems which are essentially a legacy of the previous generations and our ancestors, many who are still capable to take important decisions and actions right now?
The second was a great difference in awareness about and agency over “sustainable choices” depending on where on Earth we are, brought forward by a lady from Mexico. She observed that in her home country, there are neither resources available to care for sustainable lifestyles nor is the topic being treated in the public discourse.
We are grateful for the depth of the dialogue and connections which were possible within the short space of one evening. It takes courage to come together as a group of strangers, and put words on challenging topics like taking care of our very habitat in a system that doesn't prioritize this very work. It's encouraging to realise that what connects us is stronger than what may divide us, and that there's a power in sharing something abstract and intangible, when this kind of spaces are opened. May the seeds planted on this evening find fertile soil, so that regenerative initiatives can grow and unfold.
To collaboratio Helvetica for initiating this event, and for inviting Terrabiom to co-create the evening, in particular the hosting team of the Catalyst Lab: Sarah Friedrich, Luea Ritter, Severin von Hünerbein
To One Planet Lab for co-hosting this evening and their work supporting regenerative pioneers, in particular Patrizia Matzdorf
To Dr. Ioana Marinica for the scientific insights into responsible consumer behaviour
To WWF Switzerland for hosting this event in their HQ space
To the TerraTribe who joined in for the evening: Carolina, Eric, Patricio. We're better together.
Engaging events like this one are an important part of our mission to re:connect humans with the value of nature, from the soil up. Curious how this might fit into your world? Please reach out to explore how Terrabiom could support you in putting soil health and regeneration on your organization and people’s radar. We love to get creative.