In the linear consumerist society, goods are produced and people encouraged to buy these on a “take-make-dispose” manner to keep up with the trends promoted. Brands and trends are more than often associated with one’s own identity, in what is labelled as brand tribalism.
On one hand, the advance of technology has amplified this phenomenon as it has enabled increased exposure to advertising, leading to higher consumption. Young people today are growing in a world dominated by an ever-increasing influence of technology and media. They are especially susceptible as they find themselves at a phase of discovering and establishing their self-identity. This development is a result of the consumerist behaviours that have been and keep being promoted over the past decades.
On the other hand however, the advance of technology has also allowed information to be more accessible and it is now well known how harmful to the environment these consumerist behaviours are. Experts at Imperial College London are warning over an increasing number of children and young people experiencing eco-anxiety, a chronic fear of environmental doom.*
Taking these effects of technological innovation into consideration, it must also be pointed out that a transition to a circular economy cannot be based only on technology. For a transition to truly take hold requires consistent efforts to change consumption behaviour, waste generation and waste management, among others.
In order to successfully transition, change must take place on an organisation, cultural and individual level on all layers of society and all stakeholders and citizens.
Education on circular thinking, from an early age and using the same online platforms that young people frequent are key factors to disseminate information and best practices of a circular economy. Educating children and youth also means that appropriate training must be provided to educators and teachers, especially on practices that apply to local conditions with the collaboration of the municipalities.
Such an education must also nurture reflection and critical thinking to enable personal and social change. Furthermore, as young people tend to influence each other, it is more effective when children and youth can share information amongst themselves and learn from their peers.
Engaging children and youth in activities that stimulate their own thinking and their capability to design solutions, is another key factor that helps them achieve a sense of responsibility and ownership while actively being part of the solution for environmental issues.
The above practices fall within the framework of the Circular Based Waste Management project, which among other activities, is working directly with local schools and youth.