Green Light for Business, in collaboration with the Plastic Free NGO, encourages you to participate in the park clean-up that will take place on the morning of November 20th in the green areas that surround our university campus! All the information you need, plus an account of the extensive interview that we conducted with Plastic Free’s Secretary General Antonio Rancati.
As media outlets worldwide have dedicated extensive space and numerous resources to the coverage of November’s COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow that was designed to find international agreements on to cut down carbon emissions in order to institutionally address climate change, it is worth taking the time to reflect on the perception of the issue that common citizens are implicitly being steered to have. The intricacies and complications that surround the continuous negotiations seem to associate to any action designed to address the issue an idea of sacrifice, almost suggesting that in order to truly and effectively address climate change, environmental sustainability and pollution in general, individual sacrifices need to be made. Almost as if “saving the planet” is something that can be achieved only by giving something up, and not also by taking something in.
That is surely true at an institutional level, given that concrete efforts need to be made and resources need to be invested to guide our society towards an ecological transition that is also economically sustainable. At a local and individual level, though, that does not have to be the case. At the micro level, collective action that brings a concrete, even if not a clearly decisive, contribution to the cause in the grand scheme of things can also be enjoyable, and it can provide a tangible help. Institutional reform is crucial to achieving durable results, but collective action at a local level, combined with a sustained and widespread exposure to relevant and correct information, can fuel the social transition that will be necessary to make any potential institutional reform relevant in the long run.
Antonio Rancati, the General Secretary of the nationally renowned Italian NGO Plastic Free, demonstrated a lucid awareness of this during the lengthy and intellectually stimulating interview that Tra i Leoni conducted with him. He repeatedly cited the importance of having whatever ecological reform that is put in place by national and international authorities be accompanied by a gradual social transition, as no matter the institutional framework, the main driver of social change can only be society itself.
It is with that mindset and spirit in mind that his NGO, in collaboration with Bocconi Association Green Light 4 Business, organized a park cleanup for the morning of Saturday, November 20th, that will take place in 3 main locations around the university’s campus, namely Parco Ravizza, Parco della Resistenza and Parco Memorie Industriali. These are areas in which members of the Bocconi community regularly spend time, so it is the kind of collective action that can truly play a significant role in improving the quality of our routines. All members of the university’s community, such as students with their family members, professors, and staff are invited and encouraged to attend, as it is a fun and useful opportunity to meet people and engage in an activity that will concretely help all the community that regularly interacts in the area. Moreover, as Mr. Rancati says smiling, “Plastic Free events are never more than two hours”, implicitly emphasizing that by giving only a couple of hours on a Saturday it is possible to achieve tangible results. Participation will be completely free, and it is possible to sign up to one of the links that you can find at the bottom of the article, each referring to one of the three parks. Signing up guarantees insurance free of charge, and materials such as gloves and tweezers will be provided to all participants.
Initiatives like this one are organized on a weekly basis throughout all of Italy by Plastic Free. It is with an understable touch of pride in his voice that Mr. Rancati recounts the clean-up of the shores of Po, the longest and most important river in Italy, which took place earlier this year, involved four regions and attracted thousands of volunteers. The event on November 20th, though, will be the first ad hoc event that the NGO organizes specifically in collaboration with one university. Plastic Free was founded in July 2019, but in just a little over two years, it has managed to reach 150 million users, figures that are made even more impressive when considering that the pandemic surely hindered the association’s prospect for growth. When asked about these impressive results, Mr. Rancati smiles and cites the targeted use of social media in combination with in-person events as the main driver of such growth, saying that “Plastic Free’s main merit was the ability to combine the social media world with the real world”, managing to create an effective mixture to attract associates from all over the country.
Despite such impressive growth, the original intent of the organization has been kept intact; it was just the magnitude of its operations that increased. Mr. Rancati repeatedly points out that the association’s purpose is not to promote some sort of demonstrative protest against cities’ local administration or to call for institutional reform. The goal is to act directly and concretely, while also thinking about the long-term future. For this reason, Plastic Free’s activities can be divided in two main kinds: clean-ups, and school activities, the first to provide an immediate contribution, the second to valuably invest in the future.
The organizational framework of the NGO is set up as to favor efficient activity-planning in both areas. Every Italian region has its own set of referrers that first check out the areas in which the clean-up takes place a few days before the event to make sure that there are no hidden dangers in the area and then guide the volunteers through the activity on the day of the event. There will be 10 of them on the 20th of November, who will be divided in the three parks according to how many people sign up for each. Simultaneously, some of them undergo extensive training that prepares them for informative activities in schools, which are obviously adapted to the age groups of the recipients. Those too, as Mr. Rancati explicitly points out, have no pretension to become a substitute to teachers or professors, but are simply designed to act as sources of information on a subject that is not yet engraved enough in school curricula.
Mr. Rancati says that in his experience there are two age-groups in particular that are especially receptive to these school activities, and it is important for them to absorb as many of the important concepts as well as they will be the drivers of the aforementioned social transition. The first one is ages 8 to 12, as that is the time when individuals start becoming actively aware of the world that surrounds them and start developing the habits that are likely to accompany them as they keep growing. The second one is students in the last two years of high school, as they are likely in the process of choosing their life and career path and so, the information that they absorb can be used to influence their life paths.
“I am not among those that think it is too late to act”, says Mr. Rancati, “but I am among those that think that in not too long it will be too late”. However, working continuously with young people (most of the people who work with Plastic Free are under-30, he says), seeing the enthusiasm of the several thousands of volunteers that regularly participate in their activities and engaging in school activities makes him optimistic about the future. The already mentioned social transition, he claims, is happening right now and is bound to intensify in the coming years. Extensive institutional reform will need to accompany it, but the base is there.
And the event on November 20th, whose date was actually picked for its closeness to the International Students’ Day that will take place on November 17th, can be an actual and symbolic step to convey a message: if the institutional framework for change is hard to agree upon, the social one is easy, and our generation is ready.
Below, you can find the three links to sign up for the event, each referring specifically to one of the three parks where the clean-up will take place!