How transforming fear, anger, and confusion into compassion, clarity, and hope will inspire environmental action.
Etho is a communication strategy, online media platform, and collaboration tool focused on empowering a positive cultural shift towards sustainability.
Media has a tendency to represent a negative narrative on climate change, emphasizing bad news, blame, and complicated science. But to act people need to feel as if there’s hope, that they and their actions matter, and that there’s a clear path forward. We propose leveraging storytelling and design to create a culture around climate change that inspires, guides, and motivates people to restore the planet and their communities.
As a first step, our team is creating a website and supporting social media presence that is geared towards millennials in Metro Vancouver, Canada.
We’re working on 3 initiatives:
1. Social media outreach
We’re creating social media interventions: video, articles and gifs that address common misconceptions, illuminate big picture climate change causes, and model what a sustainable life looks like. Media that’s designed to infiltrate millennials’ media-laden lives—free from jargon, politics, and guilt—focused on creating a new culture around climate change.
2. Alternative Resources
We’re creating a wiki: a curated wealth of information on green businesses, products, and services. We’re creating a platform for DIY tutorials, user reviews, crowd-sourced resources, and commonly asked questions about living sustainably. Though our initial efforts serve the residents of Metro Vancouver, our long-term goal is to build a custom-coded template that other organizations can use to create online resources for their communities.
We’re creating a communication strategy: by studying the performance and reach of our content, we hope to help others improve theirs. Once launched, we aim to collaborate with online media organizations such as Bustle, Upworthy and Buzzfeed – helping bring the empowering, positive, and personal stories in the environmental movement to life.
What actions do you propose?
1. Change the tone
A quick glance at media coverage on climate change and the environmental crisis can leave the average person feeling confused, defensive, or paralyzed. While pure science, outraged protest, and a harsh reality check all have their place, there are more effective emotional tools to create action.
a) From confusion to clarity.
We live in a complex, interwoven world, and our actions can have complicated, interconnected effects. But when it comes to next steps, we have to keep it simple. Let’s focus on science consensus, not uncertainties and caveats. Let’s talk about what the green choice is for you, not someone across the continent.
b) From anger to compassion.
There’s lots to be angry about. But often, our anger lands on our neighbors and not our true adversaries: the policies, corporations, and systems that make being green difficult. Not only that, but anger – whether it appear in the media, activism, or conversation – may cause the average person to throw up their defenses and reject whatever message came along with it. But compassion is inviting. Compassion meets you where you are. Compassion forgives. By using compassion as a starting point, we can find common ground across political divides.
c) From fear to hope.
Overwhelming fear can do one of two things: create nihilism or paralysis. To act, people need to feel as if one person makes a difference. To create a movement, people need to feel as if a better future is possible. Hope is the catalyst for both.
2. Change the message.
The environment crisis threatens all organisms on the planet. This includes people. As weather conditions change, so will our food systems. As forests and oceans collapse, so will our lungs. As lakes and marshes petrify, so will our water. And some people, depending on where they live, will be more affected than others. Let’s bring public health and human rights to the heart of the climate change story.
a) Inspired by advertising
Advertising has long known that to connect with your audience, you need to imbue a message that resonates – messages like ‘just do it’ or ‘think different’. Think about the messages our media is currently broadcasting about climate change. Do they inspire you?
b) Culture creates behavior
Our Culture is made up of stories that affect who we are and how we act. Right now, climate change is talked about as if we’ve already lost and we’re acting accordingly. Guilt, fear, and anger have lead to finger pointing and inaction – but what if we told each other a different story?
We believe that environmental rights are human rights, the things we do, eat, and love affect the whole world, and that there is a better more beautiful future out there.
3. Curate content for change.
Lack of information is no longer a problem. What matters now is getting the right information to the right people. What not to do, what to do and how to do it are often specific to where you live. That’s why we’re starting at home with an eye on the world.
The majority of millennials get their news from online sources. Facebook plays a big role here. By crafting our content for this medium, we hope to fit seamlessly into millennials’ fast-paced, media-laden lives. And as it happens, hopeful, compassionate content tends to spread faster across social media networks.
4. Visualize a green future.
All too often, the future we imagine is rife with ecological disaster. Take Wall-E, Interstellar, or Mad Max. Where are the tales of innovative triumph? Where are the heroes in the climate change story? Where are the images of carbon-neutral cities?
If we can’t see it, we can’t work towards it. We need to engage the creative community to craft a triumphant vision of what lies ahead.
Who will be affected by these actions? Millennials.
“Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for – in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.” ― Ellen Goodman
Millennials’ lifestyles and identities are still in flux. Having grown up with the internet, we are hyper aware of the problems of the environment, politics, economics, and culture. In fact, along with gay rights and equality, climate change is one of the most important issues to millennials today.
As is true of each successive generation, what worked in the past will not work for us. Millennials are beginning to take their place in the workforce and in the greater societal conversations of politics and economics. As millennials define themselves and their lifestyles, Etho will be a leading voice in that conversation.
Though we have a focus on social media and online resources, Metro Vancouver residents of all ages will benefit from having simple, visual, answers to sustainability questions that relate to their city.
We propose creating media designed to infiltrate our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds – quick, entertaining and well-designed with a clear next step.
Every article, video or image will come with a clear call to action. This actionable item should hinge on where the viewer lives. For now, our team is focusing on next steps for Vancouver Canada. In the future, next steps shown could depend on the viewer’s IP address: linking them up to initiative they should support or resources in their own communities.
In Vancouver, a lifestyle gallery of minimalist living could come with a visual exploration of the grocery stores, soap dispensaries and farmer’s markets where plastic packaging is a thing of the past.
1. Alternative Resources
Connecting people to the food, goods and businesses in their neighbourhood that offer high social value for our health, our communities, and our environment.
What does living sustainably in Vancouver look like? Simple, visual lifestyle guides at the forefront of fashion, design, cuisine and entertainment.
Step-by-step guides, psychological tools and community support for forming healthy habits.
4. Celebrating Nature
Thoughtful, personal stories about the flora, fauna and spaces that have shaped our humanity.
5. Simple Science
The incredible science of the forests, jungles and oceans whose health is tied to ours, made accessible through visual examples and plain language.
6. Good News
Honouring the ideas and movements that are enacting the change we want to see in the world.
7. Good People
Celebrating the incredible wealth of wisdom, compassion and courage in people around the world – connecting us across borders to those most vulnerable to climate change.
Second Hand VS Sustainably Made: what's better?
Bites By Bike: Where you can find bike-delivered take-out
Bulk Up Your Life: Find Vancouver’s package-free groceries near you
Urban Rustic: Furnish Your Room with these Beautiful Upcycled Wood Finds
This Household Item Can Do Everything: The Amazing Powers of Apple Cider Vinegar
Skip The Salad: 10 Plant-Based Dishes You Will Go Pine Nuts For
9 Easy Ways To Kick Plastic Out Of Your Life
Minimalism for the Neighborhood Nomad
The Calming Nature of Nature
Poison Ivy and 9 other things I wished I knew as a child
Where Does Our Drinking Water Come From? An Interactive Infographic
Shintoism and Sacred Nature
20 under 20: Youth Taking Back Climate Change
Hand Job: How Ashley Chalmers carpentry landed her on the world stage
Who will take these actions?
It’s our hope that the culture-makers around the world – working in advertising, media, or entertainment – will see the need to create a new climate change culture. We believe communicators have a responsibility to help reinforce and share the messages that inspire us. Let’s engage them as part of the solution. By creating a platform and modeling the content that we think is important, we hope to inspire and enable others to do the same. To help, all of our templates, strategies and content will be Creative Commons.
Social Justice, Health, and Human Rights Groups
Climate change is a public health issue. Climate change is a human rights issue. Let’s bring together the organizations on the front lines of both and see where our stories intersect. We hope to reach out to social justice groups in our city and collaborate on content that spans economic, social and health issues.
From Netflix to corporate twitter accounts, all media can have a role in creating a positive culture around climate change. Let’s challenge other platforms to rethink what norms (and underlying beliefs) they are perpetuating.
About The Etho Team
We’re three young creative professionals based in Vancouver, Canada. While working in branding, animation and copywriting, we wondered: if climate change was run like an ad campaign, how would the core message, delivery, and call to action differ?
We came together with a shared vision: to communicate climate change with clarity, compassion and hope.
But we’re not alone. We’re forming relationships with environmentalist, sustainability consultants and product lifecycle analysts to make sure any content we create is accurate and has a positive effect. We’ll also partner with local media, environmental organizations and government to amplify our reach.
Though currently a collective, our goal is to become a not-for-profit society with a mission of climate change education, behavior change, and adaptation.
Where will these actions be taken?
We’ll start at home – Vancouver, Canada. Our team is based in this city and our content is tailored to its residents.
How will these actions have a high impact in addressing climate change?
Though difficult to measure, changing a society’s culture can have tremendous effects on its behavior. Cultural change is always the first step.
As we grow, our metrics will include:
- Overall reach
- Click-through rate to petitions, local organizations
- Article responses
- Ebook downloads
- E-course registration
- Sales increase for green-certified businesses
- Number of stories picked up by other media
Though our users do not self-report lifestyle changes, we can forsee large emissions reductions in the arenas of:
1. Transportation: as cycling, car-sharing and ride-sharing become more popular.
2. Diet: as the health benefits of a fresh, local, plant-based diet become known.
3. Political literacy: as local initiatives and measures get talked about in a current, visual, and shareable way.
4. Buy less, buy better: as more of us apply a holistic perspective to our shopping habits.
5. Zero-waste: as plastic becomes outdated.
What are other key benefits?
- Believing the things we do, eat, and love touch the whole world makes everything an act of joyful resistance.
- Knowing that environmental rights are human rights means seeing every decision with the objective of clean air, water and food for all.
- Knowing nature is sacred means caring for every living organism.
- Seeing efficiency and minimalism as beautiful means our homes are free of the things we don’t need.
- Seeing that a better future is possible allows us to live not only for ourselves, but other generations.
What are the proposal’s costs?
In responding to this contest’s call for ideas, we limited ourselves to what we can do now, with the resources we have. That said, our proposal costs are:
1. Sweat Equity (valued at $4800 CAD/month)
2. A portion of the office space, software, and hardware we already use to make a living (valued at $800 CAD/month)
3. Hosting & domain registration fees ($200 CAD/year)
4. Launch event costs ($500 CAD)
June 21, 2016: Etho launches in beta version at Groundswell, an alternative business school in Vancouver, Canada.
July 14, 2016: Etho launches in full at Dr. Vandana Shiva’s Vancouver talk, titled: “Seeds of the Future”.
September 1, 2016: Etho releases one video, story or how-to a week, growing its presence with high quality content on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We use google analytics and views to determine what is performing well and adjust our strategies accordingly.
Etho becomes a not-for-profit digital agency, dedicated to communicating climate change with clarity, compassion and hope, in order to empower people to take the next small step.
An Open Platform
6 month to 1 year: Once we’ve developed our following and know what type of content works best, we’d like to open it up so that other writers, artists, scientists and environmentalists can create and post their own content using our guidelines. All of our resources, tutorials and review sections are open for user contribution. A community of Metro Vancouver residents, primarily millennials, is taking shape.
1 to 5 years: All material published by us is Creative Commons. This means that anyone can re-post, riff off of, or use it with attribution. Same goes for our design templates and editorial strategies. Any web tools we’ve made are open source and can be used to create online resources specific to other cities.
We’re not a large, established organization. We’re a lean team of communicators heartbroken about climate change and obsessed with the question: how could we tell this story better?
But we know we’re not alone. Other contest submissions have hit on these same themes. Note to other semi-finalists: we want to work with you. Let’s put our heads and hands together and create something bigger than us. We believe that if we that if we model the topics, communication style and campaigns we want to see, we can inspire others to do the same and help support a growing environmental movement.
Being given a platform is a great honor and opportunity. If nothing else, we hope these ideas will resonate with a few and prompt them to question how we talk climate change.
From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for reading. If you want to chat, we’ll be available here in the forums, or you can reach us anytime at hello[at]ethocreative.com.
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The Climate Change Blame Game
Climate Change Communication Tools for Scientists: Focus on Consensus
Climate Change Anxiety in Youth
Millennial Media Habits