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EARTH MINUTER: MARK SHAYLER

Name: Mark Shayler @markshayler

Profession: Thinker. Doer. Creator. Speaker. Author. Founder of Ape.


What is the main environmental subject that you're interested in, and why? 


I’ve been working in sustainability since 1990 and in that time I’ve designed road systems, washing machines, electronics products, packaging and brand campaigns. I’m not a trained designer but I specialise in environmental design in the broadest sense. I start with the outcome; what do we want people to do differently, what do we want this product or package to do and how best can we do that with less impact. So I guess I’m a designer. Although I’ve never studied design. I studied environmental science. 


In your opinion, what's the best way to communicate an environmental campaign?

I’m a storyteller. I tell stories on stage. I tell stories with brand. I tell stories with user experience. But best of all I tell stories with science. 


Science really matters. It’s all too easy to think that motivating people is just about showing them pictures of turtles and plastic. This works. But if we forget science we focus on the obvious thing not always the biggest thing. Plastic is a great case-in-point. Plastic has no place in the ocean, none. But rushing back to heavier materials like glass will increase the weight and therefore disproportionately increase the carbon impact of the product due to its effect on transport emissions. The biggest risks to the ocean are, in order; Climate change (inc acidification), over-fishing, ocean debris (part of which is plastic). So without science we may do the wrong thing by trying to do the right thing. 


But science can be dry, hard to swallow. So you need to wrap it up in a story. 



If you could give advice to someone who wants to start an environmental campaign what would it be? 


First off, do it. Just start with something.


Then focus on communicating the benefits of a changed behaviour. I teach people to speak in public and I use six different storytelling techniques (these are all covered in my coming book 'Do Present') and one of these is Oscillation. In this approach the contrasts between how things are now and how they could be. The tension between the two scenarios is where the magic happens. So I’d use this oscillation as a way of communicating the intended impacts of the campaign, to build a compelling narrative.


Then get out and tell that story. It needs to be embedded in intention as much as action. People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Ensure people can see your WHY. Remember that you are only one person and the secret is to get many people to come with you. That’s how you scale impact. And remember to look after yourself. Don’t burn yourself out. If you’re not well then the campaign won’t work.


Just start. 

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