From Earth Hour to Circle Economy – fighting climate change for a better world

Almost ten years ago, I was the co-founder of Earth Hour. 2007 was the very first Earth Hour and one of the most extraordinary experiences I have ever had, standing by Sydney Harbour watching this beautiful city go dark and realising that there were millions of people out there who shared our desire for change.  But more than this, as the days got closer to Earth Hour, it was the diversity of participation that was most impressive – from priests, rugby league clubs, school kids and major corporations to drag queens and speed skaters.  It was the start of the manifestation of Earth Hour’s powerful mainstream reach, the people ‘in the middle’ that we in the green movement had struggled to engage in the past.


 When I first started Earth Hour, I would use this line in media interviews: “We are not asking people to go and live in a cave and eat cold beans.” And that still stands, in fact it many ways it is the opposite. Throughout my career, first with Earth Hour and now as CEO of Circle Economy, I have always made an effort of explaining to people, companies and governments, that fighting climate change can be done whilst creating an even better life, now and in the future.

The circular economy means ‘enough for everyone forever’, a direct challenge to the ‘take, make waste’ mentality of the linear economy. It is about retaining value – the value of energy, the value of labour, and the material value that goes into all of the products and services produced and consumed today. This means less waste and pollution, and more sound business cases that can contribute to a world that is agile, and ready for the future.

At Circle Economy, we are in the middle of the move to circular. As a matter of fact, we are one of the key initiators of the concept. Circle Economy, based in Amsterdam but working on a global scale, is a social enterprise, organised as a cooperative. Together with over 45 members and partners, we are not only advocates of but also accelerators of this new economic approach. We bring together a wide range of stakeholders – from multinationals, SME’s, and governments, and from across key thematic areas that can be game changers – such as cities (we just concluded a ground-breaking circular city scan for the City of Amsterdam!), textiles, finance and the creative industries. Since we are organised as a cooperative, we can work with many different partners in an open source, non-competitive way, thus optimising the output of our mission: to accelerate the practical and scalable implementation of the circular economy.

One of the very important partners for Circle Economy is the National Postcode Lottery – it is due to a generous donation that the National Postcode Lottery made in 2014 that we have been able to push many strategic projects forward and were able to launch a number of key products. Specifically: Netherlands as a Circular Hotspot: thanks to National Postcode Lottery funds, the Netherlands as Circular Hotspot idea was launched in 2014. Just weeks ago, we presented the Netherlands as Circular Hotspot campaign to Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte, and welcomed over 150 international business and government leaders and press from over 18 different countries to see what Dutch innovation in circularity looks like, with the goal to inspire further implementation of the circular economy around the world.

We are also thrilled about the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge: what we love about the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge is the focus they put on circular economy. Many of their contestants and winners are, one way or the other, working on circular projects. Take last year’s winner, Arthur Kay’s bio-bean. The 25-year-old entrepreneur started a company that turns leftover coffee grounds from thousands of UK coffee shops into fuel to power homes, offices, airports, and factories. His dream is to fuel all of London’s buses – you could power every bus in London, and one or two out of London, with London’s coffee grounds, he states. With help from the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge budget, he is surely on his way to do so.

So there it is. We know we have the greatest challenge on our hands. In essence, we have to achieve systemic change in the way we live and we need to do this in away that is aspirational and motivating. And we need to do it quickly.  We are the first generation in history that has both the means and the ability to connect behind such a bold common purpose, but to do so will require the desire, persistence and the tools to implement it.  In this age of innovation and technology, extraordinary things are possible. We count on the contestants of the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge to help us with this challenge, and are confident they will succeed.