In doing my research into a better way of running my business sustainably I came across the Doughnut. My introduction to it was an article in the Guardian that referenced it’s use in the post Covid-19 recovery plan for the city of Amsterdam.
“While straining to keep citizens safe in the Dutch capital, municipality officials and the British economist Kate Raworth from Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute have also been plotting how the city will rebuild in a post-Covid-19 world.
The conclusion? Out with the global attachment to economic growth and laws of supply and demand, and in with the so-called doughnut model devised by Raworth as a guide to what it means for countries, cities and people to thrive in balance with the planet.“
I have since read Kate Raworths book “Doughnut Economics” and have been inspired that this is an economic model that can work for me.
The Doughnut was created from the initial question “what if we started economics not with its long-established theories, but with humanity’s long term goals, and then sought out the economic thinking that would allow us to achieve them?”
The simplified version is shown in the diagram above. It is essentially a pair of concentric rings. Below the inner ring – the ecological ceiling – lies critical planetary degradation such as climate change and biodiversity loss. Between those two rings is the Doughnut itself, the space in which we can meet the needs of all within the means of the planet.
The essence of the Doughnut is that we have a social foundation of wellbeing that no one should fall below, and an ecological ceiling of planetary pressure that we should not go beyond. Between the two lies a safe and just space for all.
Having discovered the Doughnut and read about the challenge of applying it to a whole city, I figured applying it to my small business would be significantly more simple.
Now in reality I have never really focused on out and out growth. Many years ago I decided that a lifestyle was more important to me than earning as much money as I possibly could. Nonetheless I have a mortgage to pay and children to provide for and so I have always set myself targets that needed to be earned each month.
When I analyse what I mean by “lifestyle” I think of a work/life balance. I have always tried to strike a balance between working and playing. My work is something that I love doing and I am passionate about. Playing can be divided into spending time with my family and going on adventures with my friends – the majority of all of my time being spent in the mountains whether working or playing.
Nowhere in that lifestyle choice have I really considered how much I am contributing to climate change, where I sit in furthering our planets degradation.
The Coronavirus Pandemic gave me time to think. Time to research, read and gather information. Time to feel guilty too.
In the diagram above our basic human needs sit in the centre of the Doughnut. I am extremely fortunate to feel that our lifestyle has never fallen outside of the blue zone of “safe” – the question I wanted to ask myself was have I stayed out of the Environmental Ceiling?
To work this out I calculated my environmental footprint in an average year in terms of Carbon emissions. My conclusion was that my personal travel was unsustainable and worse still by offering trips internationally I have been encouraging groups of people to join me – so increasing their own impact.
Ironically the very cause of my deliberation – the Coronavirus Pandemic which gave me the time to think – has also made me recognise the financial fragility of my way of life. When the UK entered lockdown my income from Expedition Guide stopped overnight. Sadly I think for many people the economic pause will lead to a rush to recover lost income at the expense of any environmental gain that we might have made whilst we all stopped at home.
My aim is to ensure that I can move forward in a positive and sustainable manner. I need to run my business successfully to provide for the basic needs of my family. I need to build a financial buffer in case we are ever in a situation like this again and I need to re-pay the debts incurred through not working for 6 months or more. I also need to sit in that blue space in the Doughnut through inclusive and sustainable economic development.
For me that means making change to reduce my environmental impact and that has lead to a change in the trips that I am running from next year onwards. I have developed The Snowdonia Fifty as a project that should create more local work for me, allowing me to inspire returning clients to enjoy the best of the UK and at the same time to be able to work from my back door all year round.
I am putting more emphasis on my UK based trips and courses and re-arranging my diary to limit travel between them. My winter season will see two trips to Scotland of three weeks each as opposed to the usual three blocks of two.
My long haul overseas trips have been taken off the program altogether.
I am revising my European trips so that I can travel by train or by car, again re-arranging my diary so that I can work several trips back to back in the Alps rather than travelling several times by plane as I have done in the past. I aim to tag my play trips onto the same visit – keeping my travel time to a minimum. As a father of course I need to balance this with a desire to be at home and not miss my children growing up.
Ours is the first generation to property understand the damage that we are doing to our planet and the last generation to be able to do something about it. We all need to look at our lifestyles, to ask ourselves what each of us can do to thrive in balance and sit within the centre part of the doughnut without pushing through the environmental ceiling.
Of course sitting in that centre part of the doughnut is about so much more than just environmental impact too. It is part of a wider issue of a more balanced society that includes racial equality, gender equality, health care for all – topics that are regularly in the news headlines and are each deeply complex.
There is no silver bullet solution, no easy answer but it is imperative that we each educate ourselves to understand the challenges we face as a society and for each of us to start with “what can I do in my life”. Only through us making changes as individuals will the public consensus change and only when there is an appetite for change will government put in place legislation that invokes that change.