The Science Museum in London, a showcase of the most world-changing innovations in modern times, was a fitting venue for Ellen MacArthur to announce the launch of her new Foundation which is calling for people to ‘re-think, re-design and build a sustainable future’.
This is the start of a very different journey for the world-renowned yachtswoman who first hit the headlines in 2001 after finishing second in the Vendée Globe solo, non-stop round the world race, and once again in 2005, as the fastest person to sail single-handedly around the world. It was during that epic voyage that she began to realise there was an even greater challenge ahead.
Round the world sailing involves the management of limited resources at sea; to be fast you have to be light, so MacArthur learnt to manage her resources carefully, right down to the last drop of diesel for her generator and the last packet of food. “Back on land, it became clear to me that things are not so different” she says.
The yachtswoman has spent the last four years working behind the scenes and talking with government, business, NGOs and the public sector to learn more about the complexities of the challenges we face.
Speaking at the launch, MacArthur said: “Our economy is still based on a linear ‘take, make and dispose’ model. We take minerals, oils and metals out of the ground, make something valuable with them using fossil fuels and then throw them away which can never be sustainable. Just taking a bit less, making a bit less and recycling a bit more isn’t going to fix anything. Efficiency is crucial, yes. But it’s not the ‘cure-all\”. The Foundation is supporting a longer term approach based on the principle of ‘using things’ rather than ‘using things up’. We feel it is time for a big re-think and, together with the next generation, a re-design of our future by intention.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is advocating a framework described as ‘The Circular Economy’, a longer-term approach which works alongside current practical initiatives. Founding partners B&Q, BT & CISCO (joint partners), National Grid and Renault have come onboard to back this concept.