#22 | Alex Watson - Natural Capital Partners: Champion of Shaping the Conversation on Climate
Did you know, renewables are the fastest growing carbon-free energy source, projected to triple by 2020, powered by a resurgence in solar energy?
In this episode of Sustainability Matters Today, I speak with Alex Watson, the co-founder of the Climate Cocktail Club, London Branch and a Champion of Shaping the Conversation on Climate Change.
In 2017 Alex published an article called, "My case for doing business more sustainably", where he wrote about the possibility for companies to put purpose before profit in order to create social or environmental benefits while generating enough revenue to be financially sustainable.
After completing Al Gore's Climate Reality Training, Alex brought the Climate Cocktail Club, a collaboration platform for professionals who want to solve the climate challenge, to London in 2019.
Please make sure to subscribe to the Sustainability Matters Today podcast to learn more about other champions of sustainability like Alex.
I hope you enjoy the episode!
Daniel: Hey Alex, thanks for being on the show. Great to have you join me here.
Alex: Thanks, Daniel. Thanks for having me.
Daniel: And are you based in London right now?
Alex: That's right, yeah. In Central of London, near St Paul’s and mostly cold this morning.
Daniel: Very nice. Yeah, it is chilly and that's actually something that I'm noticing as well. This is, we're recording right now in the morning 8:00 AM, which I actually typically don't do. I usually do most of my recordings in the evenings. Just for whatever reason, the schedule is a bit easier that way for most people. But morning recordings are really nice. It's quieter, a little less frantic, but it's a middle of December. And one thing I'm still getting used to, I don't know, you're probably used to this coming from the UK is just how dark it gets.
Alex: Yeah. It can get very depressing all day.
Daniel: Again, imagine I was talking to someone from who's near Glasgow and I would give him a call around 8:00 AM and he said that the sun hadn't quite come out yet. I was just starting to peak out behind the mountains. I imagine if you're even further North in the Nordics, it's really dark.
Alex: Well, my fear about the winter in London is that it makes the summer all the more fun because people know it doesn't last forever.
Daniel: That's absolutely true. Coming from California that's something that I certainly appreciate more here is warm weather much more so than I ever did living in Los Angeles. And speaking of warm weather, you actually came recently from Madrid.
Alex: That's right, yes. So, I was at the COP, Conference of the Parties, the UN Climate Conference.. I was there for a couple of days with work.
Daniel: Yeah. How was it?
Alex: It was the first one I've been to and I guess a couple of observations and one having something on an informal negotiation realize the task of 60 different, well, in that case it was 60 different countries trying to move forward on a particular subject is just a bit of a nightmarish one because obviously everyone's got a say, everyone's got their own piece, it’s odd. And so, yeah, its kind of made me realize that of course, it's no wonder that the UN processes has taken such a long time to arrive at you know, it’s something in the form of the Paris Agreement.
Daniel: The Paris Agreement was organized at COP.
Alex: That's right. Yep. So that was the COP back in 2015.
Daniel: And just for some for background, just before we kind of go into it, what exactly is a COP?
Alex: So it was set up by the UN’s climate organization, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and there first one was back in the 90s and essentially this is the sort of UN body that was set up to do something about climate change. Now it was modeled, if you like on something that the UN had organized before to deal with the hole in the ozone layer which is to kind of get, you know, get countries together to come up with some rules to deal with it. But whereas, you know, the ozone layer was being caused by some refrigerant gases that really there was no big trembling, just kind of coming together and banning them internationally, obviously by name fossil fuel extraction would create a huge crash in the economy and disrupt many people's lives in huge profound ways. So, it's not maybe quite as simple as it's proved over the next 20 odd years in that it's quite slow progress to get something.
Back at university, I learned economics and you know, what they say about what my economics textbooks told me about negative externalities, which is to say a company is delivering its products but may produce something that's to the detriment of the environment. They call that an externality. And the way to resolve that is to bring a regulation across all companies that taxes that externality to incentivize the companies to not pollute in that way. But really there's no government organization - there's no know world government that could just at one stroke make that make such a rule and anything that goes through this UN body that organizes these COP will has to be agreed by all of the countries. For some countries it's in their interests not have such rules. And so that's kind of the fundamental why there's a kind of fundamental slow nature of the progress old climate change
Daniel: Sounds like a bureaucratic nightmare from hell. It's just like you have governments which are slow as they are coming together to discuss how all the other governments can go do something to try to change this thing, which no one really understands and you have to kind of believe in it in order to actually even take action on it in the first place.
Alex: Yes. I mean that definitely was my sense of - when I dipped into these informal negotiations is that they were talking about when to schedule meetings, when they get papers for those meetings and that conversation went on for about 45 minutes. But what I would say is that the Paris Agreement did deliver something. It delivered a clear direction of travel in terms of trying to limit global warming to 2 degrees, with some efforts to pursue 1.5 degrees and that sets and also a process by which governments can make their commitments and compare them and then hopefully increase the ambition on them. So, you know, it has delivered something and which is mostly to just set a framework by which governments and then the rest of society can kind of plug in towards that goal of limiting.
Daniel: And so since the Paris Agreement, which seems, kind of like, a momentous coming together and everyone agrees on the same thing, more or less, except for the US now, but it's been 4 years since that agreement has been made, so these COPs now is basically like checking in and sort of how are we getting on to reaching those goals? What else can we do, sort of a thing or what?
Alex: That's definitely going to be the emphasis on the next year’s one. It’s going to be a kind of a course, I think it’s stock take and of…
Daniel: 5 years.
Alex: …the countries. Yeah, that's right. But this year, the main focus is around setting the rules by which countries can trade carbon emission reductions. So, if given the – it's easier to deliver emission reduction. It’s less expensive to deliver emission reductions in several countries rather than others. How can that be of assistance in the process of hitting global target? And there needs to be rules that are kind of set around that. So that's the emphasis of this COP.
Daniel: And based on what you saw on dipping in and out of these informal negotiations and I mean - I think you were there for about 4 or 5 days.
Alex: Yeah, 4 days.
Daniel: 4 days. Yes. So, I'm sure you've heard a lot of different people talking in various environments for lack of a better word. Do you feel like there's any hope? I mean, are there, is it sort of like everyone's just going in circles and it really is just bureaucracy trying to overcome bureaucracy, trying to overcome bureaucracy?
Alex: Yeah, I think that there were a few elements of both hope and despair. What's interesting is in many ways it feels like a kind of conference and it's good for your networking - there's lots of relevant people to talk to - but they also throw in a load of youth activists into the main conference center, not into the negotiations. But that really is going to change the dynamic. And it means that, people, business leaders but also you know, leading kind of NGO. Commentators face some pretty upfront and direct questions, how'd you sleep at night? And the words to that effect as well.
So actually, some of that for me, some of the most powerful moments I saw were when some of those tougher questions were asked. So, I definitely left with some sense of hope. There's these tough conversations are going on and people are seem to be kind of running in the right direction. So, I didn't leave to this hand.
Daniel: Well, that's good. I'm glad to hear it because sometimes you hear about these big kind of conferences and it's basically what you were saying, 60 countries sitting in a room, there's such a wide range of economic levels in terms of what they're trying to achieve. And I'm sure you have a broad range of climates that those countries live in or are based in, and so it's just how does everyone get on the same page to accomplish this goal? And I'm glad to hear that there is a level of a kind of optimism, so to speak a little bit.
Alex: And some of that is expressed less as optimism. It's more a, kind of, we must do this. And you know, that's definitely the impetus from the contributions. For example, Greta Thunberg was there and she gave a speech to, I think estimated to be 500,000 - mostly Spaniards - who just gathered to see her. I think it's not necessarily a feeling of optimism. It's a feeling of we must find a way of doing this.
Daniel: And did you see her talk?
Alex: I did, yeah. Yeah. So I went along
Daniel: What did you think of her energy and kind of just her presentation?
Alex: It's very different from many of the corporate speakers that I had heard during the conference, that's for sure. It's very kind of somber and very kind of well-considered. My view is that Greta has been absolutely amazing in moving things forward in people's consciousness and awareness. She's mobilized over a million young people to go out on strike, and those million people have parents and guardians and those million school children are in communities in schools. And the effects of that I think has been huge in increasing awareness about climate change and the need for action. So, that's kind of enormous respect for what Greta has done and all of the other activists as well working on that, on the kind of the young people's movement.
And I think, it changes the rest of the dynamic. It changes how countries see things because some of them are facing populations that are a lot more aware and want to see more climate action. And then also in terms of companies and what they're acting because they know many of the consumers both now and in the future increasingly will want to see companies and buy from companies that have or are taking climate action. That is addressing the urgency that we are faced with. It's not about achieving something by the end of next year, it's about 2030 and the needs that in order to give us a chance of limiting level warming to 1.5 degrees, we need to have made a 45% emission reduction across the world by 2030.
So really, I think that the school strikes seem to be mobilizing around that goal. It's now not a case of Greta on her own. It's a huge movement. But I think it's, dragging society in the right direction.
Daniel: Dragging is an interesting word. And I think you mentioned something interesting about the kind of, well, at least the way I'm interpreting it is basically it's a signal. Mobilizing so many people is a signal both to governments, which is very important and also to companies. And I think that's something that I'm really interested in in terms of what you do kind of on a bigger picture in terms of focusing on how companies and corporations can limit basically what they can do to help with climate change or reducing it and so on. And you wrote this behemoth of a report, 28 pages called “Deeds Not Words – The Growth of Climate Action in the Corporate World.”
The reason I'm so interested in this and because when I first started this podcast, I came in with the idea that my, I guess you can say my hypothesis was, that I think individual people have the biggest leverage in terms of change because of consumer demand. As an individual, if I'm starting to buy only organic produce for example, or I'm sourcing all of my electricity from a green energy provider, then companies are going to start to shift and change towards that and they're going to start providing that. The more I'm talking to experts and people in the field like you, the more I'm realizing that it's perhaps a little bit more complicated than that and it's not quite as straightforward.
And you really do need someone like Greta. Forgive my American accent on how I'm pronouncing that, but her name. But you do need mobilization cause otherwise it's hard for a company realize that little Daniel over in London is demanding green energy and that's not enough. But someone like Greta who's going out and mobilizing millions of people and saying, we want green energy, we want X, Y, Z, then I think companies really start to think, “Okay, we need to start offering this on a bigger scale because people will..” is that what you're saying as in?
Alex: I think, you know, I'll start by saying businesses whilst they’re mostly controlled by shareholders and which their investors, big influences, businesses are run by people and people perceive opportunities and risks as they run their business. Now that means there are decisions that they can take about. I mean people could - these strategic decisions - do you take a move in your business the next five years, we want to do this thing or do we want to do that thing and where are we going to focus our efforts? And you know, I think if increasingly, one of the things that's coming to the boardrooms to the key decision makers in companies is around climate change.
And I think whilst that's driven by, you know, individuals doing making decisions, be it in that shopping basket or individual employees maybe writing emails and letters and organizing meetings, I think really once those individual actions do demonstrate something, I think the leadership and the strategic kind of leadership that businesses can take can mean that action can really leap forward far quicker than purely just mobilizing more and more consumers and more and more employees around there.
So the consumers and the employees are essential to any kind of progress or in terms of sustainability when in business because they present a question to the leadership of a company about our products, climate and sustainability, proof if you like. But once they present them a question, I think it then, you know, it then is it incumbent upon the need, the leadership, the company to kind of take a stance and hopefully a leap forward.
And one example would be a company can offer a sustainable alternative. It could have 95% of its products the same as they never were and 5% to appeal to the likes of you who wants to buy sustainable alternative. And that's really not going to move us forward as quickly as we need to. So really what I think is happening, what I'm seeing is that, the fact that there's 5%, 10% of consumers kicking up a fuss and also employees, companies are then thinking, “Well actually, this, in a few years, this is going to be 50, 60%”, and therefore they take it a cool that across the whole business they're going to do things differently.
And I think that's what came out in the report. Since the Paris agreement 4 years ago, the climate actions or commitments to deliver climate actions by 2030 have quadrupled. And that's now, it means that they're up to 23% of what we looked at the Fortune 500 global, which is the 500 biggest companies by revenue. So, these aren't just the kind of ethical organic alternatives. These are the biggest companies in the world. And to have a quarter of them already committed to a plan, the action will go on to maybe the details of that action, but to have the culture of them either delivering production already or committed to do so by this key deadline of 2030 -to me is a sign that many companies are taking this leap in what they're doing. And many of them have done that in the last four years.
Daniel: Yeah, committing is an interesting word because it's this a quarter of Fortune 500 global companies and this is basically the very first thing that your “Deeds Not Words” report says “is a quarter of Fortune 500 global companies have made a public commitment that they are or will be by 2030 carbon neutral using 100% renewable power or meeting a science-based emission reduction target.” And I think that word commitment is interesting because it basically says it's like an IOU. They're basically promising, but they haven't actually done anything yet.
Alex: I agree. There's no guarantee that many of those commitments will land. I think a couple of things to say. One is, there was I think about between 5 to 10% of those and Fortune 500 companies are already acting, so they are already either carbon neutral or using 100% renewable power.
Daniel: Yeah, that's like we were talking about VMware meeting their carbon neutrality.
Alex: Yes. That's one example. But I agree that a public commitment to do something by 2030 is - it's something that there's no kind of big penalty if they roll back from that other than, you know, the fact that they can be criticized publicly. So there is a small cost for them to backout. So, it's something that we have to watch, but I think even if we just took the ones that have already delivered on those commitments, we're still looking at a significant number. I think by the end of 2020, that will be at 10%. And that, of the biggest companies in the world across the board is still significant, particularly when you're looking at the change compared to four years ago.
By no means, it's not enough, but I think what the argument, which we're trying to make with the report is, the fact that of these biggest - you know, over the years, these have been the most profitable companies because they built up their revenues to such an extent that their in the 500 biggest companies - if they're finding it in the benefit to do these climate actions, then clearly that there must be a commercial case for it. These are not just doing it out of the goodness of their hearts, but some of them might be, but the fact that there are so many of them suggests that this is now in the commercial benefit of these companies.
Daniel: That's exactly the point. What I was trying to say when I was saying when I started the podcast, it's exactly about what I was going for is that sustainability isn't sustainable unless there's a financial, kind of, component to it. Meaning it has to be financially beneficial to a company in order for them to be so motivated. Otherwise, it becomes a cost and it's very difficult to justify it to a lot of people especially at the level of Fortune 500 companies, you're answering to a lot of people - first of all, you have your board and then you have all of your investors who are looking to you to make money. So, the sustainability element needs to, I would imagine, help the bottom line.
Daniel: You had another report or rather an article called “My case for doing business more sustainably”, where you talk about exactly this. This is really interesting. When I was talking with Natasha Tuck from VMware, she was saying that at VMware there is a good business case for basically taking sustainability and using it within the company. And she had a couple of reasons why, but I'm curious to know, or rather curious to hear what your thoughts are perhaps on a bigger scale rather than just at one company, what you see or have seen, especially through your work with Natural Capital Partners?
Alex: Yeah, I think I see the biggest two things. And the biggest two drivers of the commercial case of being more sustainable, getting customers and getting the best employees. Now there are others, there are the financial - the pressure from the investors as you mentioned - maybe the threat of future regulation. And also some, cost savings that can come from being more sustainable. But for me, I see those two as the biggest. I think, you know, some of that goes back to what I did in a previous walk of life, which is when helping startup ventures to run a crowdfunding campaign. So, I saw in helping - I was helping build the sales proposition for these startups as they went live with that effectively, that first sales campaign. And many of them had these, you know, social and environmental and bits that were part of that proposition because that business was doing things but doing things a bit differently.
And yes, I feel that seeing that and social and environmental mission and the action of those companies really helped and get those startups extra as free marketing got the proposition across to the customers. So, I think that's important and given the jump in awareness about climate change that we've seen as a consequence of what we talked about around the school strikes I'd see that benefit only increasing. I think the other one is, again, coming from that public awareness is the thing around employees.
And we have Natural Capital Partners. We have many clients out over on the West coast of America, tech companies. And yet many of them - they'd want to hire the brightest and the best software developers and I'm sure many other things as well. And they know that those people going into jobs that are kind of facing decisions about what they want to do, given that, climate change is becoming more visible to them. So, I see that those two are the kind of biggest drivers and that's what, as I said, it might not be landing on the company's bottom line to require them to change everything drastically today. But I think those business leaders that are perceiving the opportunities and risks of the business in the next 5, 10 years, making decisions about that thinking, well, we're already seeing this in terms of hitting sales and our ability to hire, so we need to make a bigger change that really secures us for the future.
Daniel: Yeah. That's very similar I would say to what Natasha was saying in, I think it was Episode 2. I was asking her the exact same question, what is it and she said, or what is the reason why it's so important for VMware to do to focus on sustainability? Because they have a sustainability division. And at the time they only had four people, but they are devoting resource and energy obviously to it. And she said the exact same thing that first of all, customers are now asking, the big part of her and her team's job is to basically go through these requests forms that customer send them to say, “Okay, tell us about VMware's kind of carbon footprint and what you're doing to mitigate all of that stuff before we - it's an important factor in our consideration for a vendor”. So that's number one.
And then number two, exactly like what you said again with employees. She said that more and more - whenever they do interviews with people for any role - that's an important factor that potential employees ask about is: Is VMware sustainable? Yes or no? And you know, if they have kind of, well, I'm not sure. And you know, sort of sustainable - not really - people lose interest because there are other companies that are doing it. And like you said, again, going back to the younger people, this is now the workforce. The millennials are really entering the workforce in a big way now. So, I think for a lot of millennials sustainability is a very important value with where they work and kind of what they do. So yeah, it's interesting, that's kind of across the board as well.
Alex: Yeah. And I think it's not necessary almost. I'd say it's not necessarily a value in that, you know, millennials are kind of grown up in a throwaway culture. I don't think sustainability is embedded in many millennials as values, but I think it's more like a pragmatic thing, you know? I mean you're seeing extreme weather events making you realize this is happening, taking on board some of these, you know, big kind of scientific discoveries about how quickly the climate is changing makes this a kind of more pragmatic thing for this, my generation of we don't want to be in a world 30 years down the line where, you know, things are extreme weather events are happening, you know, incredibly frequently. So it's, yeah, not necessarily a value thing. It's more, you know, maybe a more pragmatic thing now.
Daniel: That's a good point. You did the climate reality training with Al Gore. And yeah, so I quick backup and normally we're kind of doing this all on all backwards, but you and I met at the Climate Cocktail Club, London Edition.
Alex: That's right, yeah.
Daniel: And I want to hear more about this. I'm curious to kind of, I'd like to start with Climate Reality training and then move into the CCC. But I met someone else there at the Climate Cocktail Club who is also part of this Climate Reality training. And she was telling me a little bit about it and I actually had never heard of it, which is a little embarrassing to say, but when I looked into it, it looked really interesting and the way she was describing it sounded almost too good to be true cause but I'd love to understand a little bit more about what is it, how does it work and, sort of, what are you expected to do after the training?
Alex: So, Climate Reality Training was set up by Al Gore and like the way I see it is it's essentially in taking his documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth”, and doing that, that taught that content in real life with people spreading it across a couple of days. So generally, it's our goal going around, doing, delivering training. And then there's a number of other sessions, panels, speakers as well. But it's free for attendees as you know, real diverse mix of people there from all across the world, but also all ages, you know 18 to 80.
So the aim is that you understand more about Climate Reality and what is happening in our climate, and then what can you do about it.
Daniel: Sorry, just to clarify the training. The word training to me sounds like a military training or I don't know. I'm picturing like, it's not just an educational thing where you're like, “huh, it’s interesting!”
Alex: That's fair. It's both educational - it tells you the stats, how climate change works, what it's going to affect into the health, economy, politics, but then also it's training you to go and do something about it and particularly around the communication of it. You know, there's, you then get given a slide deck and it's this slide deck that Al Gore built that they want you to go and do it. And by doing the training you commit to give in the year that follows your training 10. It’s what they call “Active Leadership.” And you know, the kind of standard one would be to go to your friend's workplace, a community of people that you know and deliver a presentation about climate change.
So, I did a couple of things following that. I actually did a kind of reality presentation to the inmates of a prison in North London where I live. So that as part of the education wise and we had a dozen inmates come and learn about climate change. And so I did a couple of different presentations and then I'd come across the Clinic Cocktail Club in Dublin setup by a colleague and a friend of mine, Tom Popple and his friend Ray, and they were just finding that, you know, evening, informal, evening events with a couple of speakers and a few drinks, was attracting, a lot of people to come and find out more about climate change, meet some interesting people. And I just thought, well, London's kind of right for this. There's many things going on, you know, get kind of big demand.
So I met - talk to Joe Alexander who also did the Climate Reality training with me. And we just thought, “Yeah, let's go ahead and do this and London”. And we did our first event, May this year we had 150 people turn up. We had another 300 on our waiting list. The next one, we doubled our events size. We had 300 turn up again, we sold out. So, you know, there's a big demand for what I would say in more informal and fun ways to learn, to process and to maybe even plot and plan and doing something about climate change. And I think for me, that is important because we need to kind of change the conversation about climate change.
You know, if you bring it up around the dinner table, everyone's eyes might roll because we're going to spend the next five minutes talking about something that's about threatening our existence on the planet and it's not a fun topic. We're not trying to make it super light and fun and funny and without having that serious element. But we are trying to make a space where people can have a conversation that they actually kind of want to be a part of and can both fund more things out, but also have an interesting time of it as well. So yeah, we've been having some speakers, we've been putting up some boards and quizzes and games as well and obviously laying out a few cocktails and that's the climate hotel club. And we'll be having a few more events in the New Year and I doubt.
Daniel: Yeah, it sounds like, Oh, well I was at one of them and they were, it was fantastic. I thought. So I went to the one, I believe it was in early November. I'm not mistaken, and it was just the room was buzzing. Everyone seemed to be having a good time. There was, yeah, like you said, drinks, cocktails. And certainly sounds like a lot less, well maybe that's not fair, but it certainly sounds a I was going to say a lot less pressure, but I think it's more casual than delivering a climate talk to inmates.
I'm sure there's - organizing a massive event like that is certainly comes with its own different types of pressure. But I think it's a really great way to, like you said to have a conversation in a very – it's not a very formal setting. You, kind of, just come after work. If the vibe is very friendly overall. And what I liked about it is when I was there, I felt like we're all here together to do something, but it didn't have any sort of like kind of dogmatic feel to it where, you know, I wasn't worried. Like, “Oh, here we go. We're about to like go march and demand things to happen and change”. It's more we're here to have a conversation and sort of try to understand how we can work together more effectively. And I think that's a more productive way sometimes to approach them.
Alex: I think, you know, there are things out there that are here's your action, here's what you go and do, you know, Extinction Rebellion, you become a part of that if you want to be arrested. And now that's not for everyone. And there is a heap of other things out there, many of which we kind of signpost at these events on some of these boards about what other things people can get involved with. We ultimately, you know, we're not in a position to say this is the one thing that's going to solve climate change. And that I think goes back to what we talked about earlier. It's not necessarily about getting one person to take an individual action. I think it's about getting people to see the other people around them. Also interested in this and maybe together, we can kind of do something a lot quicker than just me changing something in my life because ultimately if it's more expensive, if it's more hassle to do many of the low carbon things today, then only a small portion of the population will do them. So I’m very much, you know, if the view that we've got to try and figure out ways of making it easier for kind of everyone to do suffers more sustainable.
Daniel: Absolutely. I agree with that. And I think that's actually something that I've been that's one of the benefits of talking to so many different people about this is I was definitely of the opinion at first that it's all about individual action. What can I do to basically reverse climate change almost as though I'm as one person can do it on my own. But yeah, we're all in this together and it's definitely an action or multiple actions that basically everyone needs to take. Excuse me. It comes back to the meme that I keep seeing on Instagram, which is along the lines of it's not about one person doing everything perfectly. It's more about like a lot of people just doing a little bit, even if it's not perfect because that creates the momentum that makes it easier for governments and companies to start picking up these trends and making changes. You mentioned the Extinction Rebellion and I know we only have a few minutes left, but I'm just so interested what you think about what they're doing, because to me Extinction Rebellion is well, I always think there's Greta and then there's Extinction Rebellion.
Alex: So, I think both the school strike is that, you know, Greta has inspired and led and Extinction Rebellion are often kind of bundled in together. They both done one thing, you know, they both, sorry, both of them have done one thing, which is to increase public awareness about climate change to start a conversation to get it in the media. I think for me, the way that the school strikers have gone about things means that there's going to be, they are going to be more successful in the long run. There's a lower barrier to entry. You know, any school kids could take that Friday off and whereas not everyone can take a week off and get arrested. And that, you know, is kind of how it seems that Extinction Rebellion and kind of pitching themselves in terms of how you get in both. So, I think they've been fantastic for increasing awareness, but I'm not sure they're going to achieve through the means that they've kind of set out already and how they've gone about things, you know, yeah. So that's my piece on it.
Daniel: I think it's an interesting point. I never really hadn't considered sort of the long-term sustainability again of that kind of type of action. When I see what they're doing and hear about it, I always wonder what effect does this have on the people who were maybe on the fence or who are already sort of struggling to believe in climate change or who think that it's not really important, and then Extinction Rebellion comes in and, you know, they disrupt the bus, the buses, they disrupt tube, they start disrupting flights. I worry sometimes that it has an almost an adverse effect. Yes, it does get into the media, but I sometimes worry that the people who may be on the fence and they go, “God, here we go - the climate people ruining life for everyone again”, and they sort of, you know what I mean? I'm not sure. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's always something I'm a little bit concerned about, whereas Greta's work is much more peaceful. It really is just about saying, we want action, but we're not here to sort of disrupt your life kind of so intensely. My thoughts on that.
So as we wrap up here, I'm curious to know, I know we've been talking about kind of what we can do together, but out of curiosity, I know that a lot of people are interested in what they can do individually in order to contribute to the whole. So, a question I like to ask is what can people do on a day to day basis or perhaps more directly, you know, what is it that you do on a day to day basis to be more sustainable that perhaps we can learn from?
Alex: So, I think when I hit 30 I notice that my belly started to expand a little bit as age sometimes mandates, I found that avoiding meat was that a kind of easy way of eating less. So I've avoided beef kind of entirely, but then probably on the meat front I'm more just reduce it. You know, I've got a cousin who's a pig farmer. When I go up there, I'm not going there and turn down his fine produce. So, that's one thing that I've done, you know, that partly have, as I said, the benefits to my health as well.
I guess I just stopped buying stuff that I don't need, so that's clothes where I can avoid it. Just stuff from a flat and just more conscious and thinking about, well, probably any item and physical thing that you buy, all the materials that have gone into that, there are carbon emissions that go into that. So, those are the things I've done. But I think I do want to go back a little bit to what we talked about already in terms of not taking it all on yourself.
And I think for me, this comes from my mum about actually. So my mum was an architect and well, is an architect still. And she has always focused on low energy housing. And so, she's been a big kind of inspiration. And then I was aware of climate change from a young age. And you know, talking about around the dinner table. Yeah, I went through a phase, well you know, I was saying, “Why are you recycling this, why are you recycling that? You're meant to be helping the planet out”. And I think she – in her defense- working long days and coming home to me and my brother, you know, yapping away, if not fighting. And I think you know her, her view as well - I want to try and do something that affects these big new building projects and rather than just spending my whole life making my imperfect house in order. So I've kind of taken on that inspiration. And it's also been an inspiration for me in that I remember at 16 being, probably almost all my mates were often in a holiday to some surf town in the Cornwall, which is Southwest England.
And I was over in visiting low carbon sustainable development in Sweden. And I remember that vividly because walking around those streets just seeing all the cyclists and just thinking, “Wow, this is a pretty nice way to live”. And so, I've always had this thing in mind that is, it's yes. You know, where you can try to do things but ultimately try to kind of feed in and do something that's part of the bigger picture and not just tidying your own plot up.
Daniel: Yeah. I think that's wise words and a good way to think about it. So, it's a lot less pressure on you being perfect, which can really freeze a lot of people. So, I think that's a great place to end it. Alex, thank you very much for your time and where if people wanted to learn more about Climate Cocktail Club and join the next one. I know also going onto the website that it's rapidly expanding, which is really exciting. So where can people perhaps find you or find the Climate Cocktail Club or learn more about the work you're doing and maybe even join one of the next events?
Alex: Sure. So yeah, if you go on to climatecocktailclub.org and if you check out the chapters, which are the different locations that we're running you can easily get in touch with us that, so really encourage, you know, that's even if you just want to come along to the next one or if you want to set up your own. So yeah or anywhere in between. So head over there.
Daniel: And that's awesome. And I do encourage anyone listening to join the next event, whether it's in London or perhaps somewhere else in the world because you'll meet a lot of interesting people who are really passionate about the environment, about sustainability. And if it's something that you want to learn more about, it's a great place to do it. As Alex was saying, there's a lot of speakers, I think last time at the London event around November, there was probably like 5 or 10 speakers, I lost track there. There's a lot of different people talking about a wide variety or a wide range of topics. It was really interesting to hear him just different takes on what we can do together to achieve this goal of 1.5 degrees, hopefully, rather than 2.
On that note, Alex, thank you so much for your time this is whole lot of fun. While we are able to connect.
Alex: Well, thanks for having me. It’s been great to chat here.
Thank you very much for listening to this episode
If you’d like to learn more about Alex Watson and Climate Cocktail Club, please visit climatecocktailclub.org. You can also follow them on Instagram @climatecocktailclub for more updates!
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