Parents for the Planet: ‘Kids are angry at what has happened to the Earth’

Parents for the Planet: ‘Kids are angry at what has happened to the Earth’
Laura O’Connell, brand and communities manager at Innocent Drinks, with her son Luan Adams, 2, in the company’s boardroom in Dublin. Picture: Moya Nolan

As a new mum, I wasn’t prepared for parenthood. Nobody is. There are so few things you can control.

My son, Luan, is now two years old. I want him to be proud of me. So, at home, I try hard to make good choices for the planet. I’ve decided I won’t buy him his next set of clothes. I’ll try to get them from a friend instead. I’ve also decided not to throw out the clothes and toys he outgrows. They’ll go to friends and charity shops instead.

When I first had Luan, I came across Dublin Mas Freecycle on Facebook. I wasn’t working then and I didn’t have a huge amount of money. While I was initially attracted by the economical aspect of it, I was impressed by the ‘don’t throw it out, give it away’ concept. A lot of swapping goes on amongst the mums who participate. They’re a supportive group.

As a working mum, I knew I could set a good example to Luan with my career, by not wasting time and energy working for a brand I don’t believe in. Before becoming brand manager with Innocent Drinks, I had an organic beauty business. I chose organic, as sustainability and ethical branding are important to me.

When my business closed six years ago, I decided I didn’t want to work in an organisation that talks the ethical talk but doesn’t walk that walk. I still feel that way, so I’m happy to be working where I do today.

Innocent is a certified B corporation. It meets the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance. It’s part of a community that drives a global movement of people using business as a force for good. What’s important here is that Innocent and these other companies are not about greed. They’re about protecting the future.

Over the years I’ve seen many organisations produce heaps of unsustainable materials to support marketing and event campaigns that tend to run for between six months and a year. Skip loads of rubbish get generated and dumped all the time.

Innocent campaigns are different. We try to print on wood and use solar power. We rent, reuse, and restore where possible.

At Innocent we haven’t just recently jumped on the sustainability bandwagon. The company first began using recycled plastic in its bottles 15 years ago.

When I joined, I found it to be an eco-friendly workplace. Nobody has a waste basket at their desk. Everyone recycles instead. Printing only rarely happens. We ask people to knit hats that go on our bottles that ultimately will donate towards helping the elderly.

Our practice of gathering old keyboards from our offices and donating them to charity shops, rather than dumping them, generates help for the elderly. We’re for sustainability. That’s something we promoted heavily at the All Together Now festival this summer.

Today’s kids inspire hope. They’re great at protecting the planet. They pick up litter. They don’t throw out plastic. Many walk to school. Many are angry at what has happened to the Earth. We have to show them we care by recycling as they do, and by using less water and doing all we can for the environment.

I know when Luan goes to school these things will all be ingrained in his psyche from day one. At home, it’s up to me and his dad to lead by example. He’s learning fast. He’s familiar with ecobricks. He recycles and he does Meat Free Mondays with us.

I’ve always been interested in the environment. As a primary school student, I won a littering poster competition. Back then the message was: Pick it up and bin it. Today the message is about putting rubbish in the right bin.

I think what’s coming next is a bigger push to reduce carbon footprint. We all need to look closely at how we live from an environmental point of view, educate ourselves, and make informed choices. The carbon footprint of prawns gets plenty of news coverage and it’s food for thought. But then so too is is unnecessary travel and the fact that airlines need to find and use more sustainable sources of fuel.

Besides recycling, we all need to cycle more. I cycled a lot before I got pregnant. I need to get back to that.

I feel confident about the future of our planet. Naively confident perhaps. I believe people will increasingly do the right thing for the sake of the Earth. When I think of the environment I think of the ozone layer. Thinking about that used to scare me, perhaps because as a child I so often got sunburned. These days, I remind myself that everyone is talking about the issue and trying to do right by the environment. Because I’ve great faith in humanity, I feel positive.

As for how much of the planet’s problems I would apportion to man as opposed to nature, I think we are living nature itself, in so far as man is part of nature. We are nature. We have been harming the planet, but now we are becoming more careful and mindful.

Earth has survived a lot over a long period of time. Provided we all start and continue to make positive changes for the sake of our world, I think it will survive the challenges it faces today.

Laura O’Connell is brand manager with Innocent Drinks

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