Since retiring from racing yachts, Ellen MacArthur has committed herself to a new challenge. She has created an education foundation that aims to change attitudes towards the planet’s finite resources. Ellen wants to challenge people to rethink how they use and design products.
Speaking in London, Dame Ellen spoke of how her desire to help create a more sustainable economy has taken the place of her all consuming passion for sailing.
"Five years ago I would never have dreamt I'd be doing this," she says. "But it's become the most exciting thing I've ever done - and I never thought I could say that about anything other than sailing."
She explained how her experiences of frugal living whilst sailing, on a boat with finite supplies inspired her to try and do something about the alarming rate at which we are using up our natural resources.
"When I was at sea I managed whatever I had incredibly carefully, so I never left a computer screen on, never left a light on, I was careful with food, because you know that is all you have.
"What you have on board is finite. If you drop the only screwdriver over the side, it's gone forever. There is no more. You have to live in a very different way."
The foundation aims to promote ideas for businesses, schools and universities which will encourage people to re-think how the earth's resources are being used. She wants young people to play a key part in designing a whole new way of living. As the cost of raw materials rise, products and services will have to be designed to reduce waste or be reusable. Jobs will be created to serve this new economy.
"It's about designing things so that the materials used for a shirt can be re-used for another shirt or turned into a pair of trousers. It's not about using less and less. It's about finding a cycle that works."
She has thought carefully about her terminology. This is definitely not about being ‘green’ and Ellen is careful not to use environmental jargon that might put people off and have a negative effect.
"What does 'green' mean? It's not about 'green' or 'the environment'. You could argue it's about how we maintain a good quality of life. It's about how we're going to prosper in the future, when we're so dependent on something that won't be around forever."
After achieving her life goal at such a young age, Dame Ellen was left with a bit of a ‘what now?’ situation. She is recycling her energies and all consuming passion into the foundation, however she is only too aware that this challenge may be even greater than setting the record for a single-handed circumnavigation of the globe!
Copyright Speakers Corner 2017