“Back in 2008, when we first started, people talked more about waste as a visual problem, not an environmental problem,” states Anneli Ohvril, founder and CEO of Let’s Do It World. “They would say things like: ‘I don’t like that waste is everywhere because it’s not beautiful.’ Now, we don’t talk anymore about the visual impact. Now, it’s about the environmental impact.”
“What is really great is that the new generation absolutely have a different mindset,” Anneli explains. “They’re living light. They don’t value owning things so much. More renting, leasing, trying to live as light as possible. I see it with my child, who is 25. He doesn’t care what things he has. He wants to live light and doesn’t want to buy things. If he needs something, he’ll try and borrow it from some friends. The new generation is also much more environmentally friendly. They’re not eating so much meat.”
Which is great to see. And yet, I point out to Anneli, many in the younger generations are huge digital consumers and producers of content, and don’t seem to be aware of the environmental impacts of digital. “Yes, the new generation is really aware of the physical environment but not so aware of digital waste and its impact on the environment,” she agrees. “There is definitely a big gap. But no one has talked about it. So, it’s understandable. If we are talking about digital waste, I always see surprised faces because people just don’t know about it.
“The key to change is visualization. We don’t see the waste in the digital world. We need to show people that there are huge virtual landfills. Digital waste is really, really hidden. Here we can talk about digital blindness. If we talk about trash blindness in the physical world, it means that we don’t see trash anymore. We are working and we only see our laptops or our smartphones, we don’t see the huge digital landfills. Our job is to visualize these landfills, to make them more understandable to people.
“The programmers and digital designers should design out the waste. It’s a different mindset for the programmers because many haven’t thought about these issues yet.”
Digital is cheap. “Cheap has a different cost,” Anneli explains. “Maybe it would be a good idea to have an environmental price. If you are using something, how much damage is it doing to the environment?
“The social network is constantly putting us under pressure to make more content. It makes us feel that we need to produce the content, otherwise we are out. It’s always pressure and pressure and pressure. I see people who are really struggling. If we’re not on social media for some days, we are really anxious.
“I opened up my phone and I realized that there were 23,000 photos! I didn’t realize that. Because I believed that I was not taking that many photos. If I want to try and find a photo that really means something to me, I can’t find it. That’s not what I want. I was able to delete 2,000 photos, but I still have 21,000 photos.
“Sometimes, it’s more important to enjoy the moment and not always be recording the moment.”