Some time last year, quite soon after joining Waste Aware Scotland, I was invited by the Energy Agency and South Ayrshire Council to speak at an event on the topic of construction waste as part of a series of CPD (professional development) events involving local construction people including architects, project managers and the like. I willingly accepted, forgetting that in order to make an effective presentation I would need to know something about construction waste. I guess my younger self (albeit not much younger) presumed that my current self would have absorbed all manner of information about the construction industry by the time the presentation came round.
Anyway, following a ridiculously short year (possibly warranting some kind of public enquiry to measure exactly how long it was) the day of the event loomed large last week and I found myself driving to Ayrshire to talk to a room full of people.
Now let’s be clear, in my time here I have learnt a lot about business waste. I’m studying an Environmental Management diploma with the University of Bath to help me understand more about the issues I face everyday. I have also learnt a lot about marketing, as campaigning is not just about knowing facts and figures – you also have to promote the message to a potential audience. However I did not believe my knowledge was necessarily sufficient to inform experts in their field about best practice when it comes to avoiding waste throughout the many tiers of construction projects. This is partly because our construction campaign (which I also co-ordinate) was largely set up before my time to offer timeless advice to visitors – thus it doesn’t require the kind of daily co-ordinating which is demanded by Waste Aware Business.
So what did I do? Did I cowardly back out and make my excuses? Did I pretend my leg had fallen off? No I bloomin’ well didn’t. I contacted my colleagues at WRAP and asked for help. I was fortunate that they were willing to support me; in fact they provided copies of their own presentations. I also used the wonderful world wide web to find information from a range of sources, including websites run by other Scottish Government funded organisations such as Envirowise, who are also heavily involved with helping the construction industry.
Before long I had more information than I could possibly use in a 30 minute presentation. WRAP had advised me that just one of their presentations lasted for over an hour, so you can see it was fairly straightforward to put enough information in there. The difficulty was presenting it in a way that would offer a balance to the information so that it would appeal to people with different levels of experience and cover everything that might be relevant.
The venue itself was spectacular, the County Buildings are set just back from the beach in Ayr. I was sorely tempted by the fish and chips shop on the way to the car park after the presentation, but I held off.
Overall I was pleased with the presentation. I warmed into it and by the end was waxing lyrical about issues like “designing out waste”. I was careful to only say things I knew to be true (number one rule!); I received some valuable feedback and the presentation led to a lively debate in the room. I also found out that I did know more than I thought and was able to draw on information across the waste landscape that I must have picked up from somewhere along the way.
To download the presentation (PowerPoint) click here.