How a change of habit can change the course of our planet.

The times they are a-changin’.

It’s time. The world’s politicians may be falling into one of two camps: out-and-out denial or bandwagon-jumping. Young people are either hailing Greta Thunberg as the second coming or lamenting dejectedly “what can little me do whilst shady global corporations flat-out refuse to change their bad habits?” Opinions shift, and doubt creeps within all of us. But the scientists are unanimous: it’s time. Time for change on a momentous scale.

Sure, it’s easy to think that you contribution is futile in the face of billion dollar businesses, global corruption and lacklustre political presence, but change has a way of snowballing. From little acorns do mighty oaks grow, so they say. And one need not sail the Atlantic to do their bit for change. Feel as though you don’t know where to begin? Try looking closer to home. Contributing just your time and talent can have a positive impact. And you can win more than just the feeling of having done your bit. An incredible Wacom creative pen tablet; esteemed industry recognition; a year of Communication Arts digital editions; and your artwork printed onto one of three limited-edition water bottles, are all up for grabs.

Art for Planet Earth is a project dedicated to the change that’s within us all. A project with a vision for a better future. A project encouraging creatives to consider their participation in paving a way to a brighter tomorrow. A project where your designs can make a major splash.

Designing change.

Years of alarming headlines have already made their mark on the creative community. From helping bees by way of 3D-printing to designers crafting lampshades from beer waste, creative thinkers are doing their bit to contributing toward a better future for our planet. Creating a product with change at its heart, Art for Planet Earth are asking fellow creatives to submit their works to a bi-annual design competition; the first seeing three winning designs printed onto an eco-friendly water bottle that symbolises the shift in consciousness so many of us are making.

With a million plastic water bottles bought around the world every single minute, the Art for Planet Earth water bottle embodies the sort simple-yet-critical change that everybody can make. By rewarding talent using their creativity to make a difference, the competition inspires a full circle of motivation toward doing the right thing. It is time for change. And APE enables that change through creativity.

Don’t lose your bottle.

The facts and figures surrounding single use plastics, and in particular plastic bottles, make for bleak reading. 480 billion drinking bottles were sold in 2016, fewer than half of those were collected for recycling, but the sad truth is that very few make it the full distance to actually becoming a recycled plastic. More than 60 million end up in landfills or incinerators every day. And that’s before we even think about the plastic that finds its way to our oceans; up to 13 million tonnes each year. With each bottle taking an estimated 450 years to break down, that is seriously bad news for the countless lifeforms who call the Earth’s water home.

It’s frightening stuff, but an issue that should be reasonably easy to resolve: don’t buy plastic bottles of water.

Fusing simple consumer change with a straightforward way for creatives to contribute to the betterment of our planet, Art for Planet Earth’s reusable glass water bottles will have three winning designs printed upon them ready for sustainability conscious design fans to snap up via the online store. Most importantly, 20% of all proceeds from every purchase will be donated to the three non-profit organisations chosen for this debut competition. Kicking off with the pressing issue of global warming, each six-month-long competition will support bodies committed to change in areas critical to a better future for planet Earth: 350.orgWWF UK and The Climate Coalition.

From topics around global warming inspiring a glass bottle label artwork, APE design competitions will continue to be rooted around issues vital to a better world; that may look like LGBT+ rights, global poverty, clean drinking water … anything unjust and unacceptable, issues that concern us all. Issues that we can contribute to changing through art. And each time art will be the conduit for raising awareness, and money, for hard-working and influential charities and organisations.

Art for change.

“Do Women Have To Be Naked To Get Into the Met. Museum?” Reads a bold 1989 artwork from anonymous feminist art collective, Guerrilla Girls. “Less than 5% of the artists in the Modern Art Sections are women,” it continues, “but 85% of the nudes are female.” The activist-artists are an inspiring example of how creativity can raise awareness for issues that push for a better world.

Wearing gorilla masks in public, more than 55 people have been members over the years, creating work that employs humour and an outlandish aesthetic to expose gender and ethnic bias, so too corruption in politics, art, cinema and popular culture. Their art now hanging in many of the world’s leading contemporary art galleries, their work is inspiration for any creative looking to use their own talent to embark on the sort of vital change that Art for Planet Earth is seeking to make.

“We wanted the focus to be on the issues,” they have said of their anonymity, “not on our personalities or our own work.” Artists and designers hoping to make a mark in the debut APE design competition should take note: the issue of global warming is paramount, using your talent to raise awareness can contribute to significant change. Be inspired. Make a difference.

“If anything,” says Ai Weiwei, “art is... about morals, about our belief in humanity. Without that, there simply is no art.” Weiwei is perhaps the worlds most famous artist-activist. His art has landed him in jail in his native country, China, and trouble has rarely evaded him as his international reputation has soared; only recently the artists was thrown out of a Munich gallery having voiced support for staff facing redundancy. In August, the dissident announced he would be trading his adopted home of Berlin for the UK, citing German society’s growing intolerance of refugees as reason.

He is an artist, like Warhol, whose public persona is inseparable from his art. Unlike the  Pop Art icon, however, Weiwei’s work is potently political; and deeply ingrained in change. “From a very young age I started to sense that an individual has to set an example in society,” the artist once said. “Your own acts and behaviour tell the world who you are, and at the same time what kind of society you think it should be.” And the society he believes in, as his most famous work dictates, is a fairer and more just society, one of kindness and compassion.

Sunflower Seeds debuted at the Tate Modern in October 2010; over 100 million hand-crafted porcelain sunflower seeds covering a 1,000 square metres of the Turbine Hall’s floor. More than 1,600 artisans worked over a span of two-and-a-half years in Jingdezhen, China; the town dubbed the ‘Porcelain Capital’ having produced imperial porcelain for over 1,000 years.

An obvious commentary on ‘Made in China’ mass-production, the seeds themselves were also symbolic of the change Weiwei talks of. Growing up under the reign of Chairman Mao, propaganda images would frequently depict the dictator as the sun, with the people of China as sunflowers turning toward him. A stark reminder of the lack of freedom his people endured, the artist also remembers how even the poorest of families would share sunflower seeds as a gesture of friendship and empathy. A symbol of affection and goodwill under the most repressive of regimes, Ai Weiwei’s seeds showcase that belief in humanity he says art cannot exist without.

A global concern.

Climate change is real. We’ve understood the ‘greenhouse effect' since Joseph Fourier calculated, in 1824, that our planet would be colder should it have no atmosphere; a natural effect that makes sense of Earth’s liveability. In 1895, however, Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius made a more alarming discovery: humans could enhance this effect by producing carbon dioxide. What would follow is more than a century of critical research that has given humankind a better understanding than ever before of what exactly we are doing to our only home.

We’ve increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere more than a third since the Industrial Revolution. Ice loss in rapid acceleration; extreme weather events are on the rise; forest fires have escalated in destructiveness; flora and fauna is suffocating; rainforests are being decimated; the climate is becoming less and less predictable. But we can change. Art can change. Think about how you can raise awareness, raise money for organisations active in making significant impact upon our future. Think.

There are a myriad of ways in which a shift in behaviour can exert real change in global warming. Energy-efficiency can look like replacing your lightbulbs, unplugging technology when it’s not in use, even washing clothes in cooler water; riding a bike or taking public transport can reduce your personal carbon footprint; eating less meat, minimising food waste, buying organic and even growing your own food can make your diet more environmentally friendly. Above all, opening up a conversation about change can help others understand the simple steps that can be taken to begin reversing the climate crisis. Putting your creativity in front of a wider audience can help feed that conversation.

More than simply a competition, submitting your work to Art for Planet Earth is a way to say “I care about the future”. Submitting your work can inspire others to follow in your footsteps, it can inspire others to use their creativity to enact change. Change has a way of snowballing, you have the chance to be its catalyst.

Your role in all our futures.

By submitting your work to APE prior to the deadline of 20 August, 2020, your creativity can serve as a s small acorn toward greater change. Taking on a topic related to global warming, your art can motivate others, it can inspire change, and it can win you prizes, recognition and prominent industry exposure.

An venerated international jury—comprised of Guilherme Somensato, Head of Art at DDB Budapest; Montréal illustrator, Hanna Barczyk; and John Ball, Principal, Creative Director at MiresBall Brand Design, San Diego—will assess entries based on originality, emotional impact, on-shelf visibility, aesthetics, compliance with the brief, and technical feasibility; three winners honoured from a shortlist of 20 designs.

First, second and third placed winners will each take away a creative pen tablet, including a £500 Wacom Intuos Pro L Paper; their designs will be printed onto eco-friendly glass bottles, 20% from each sale going toward an organisation critical in combating climate change; one year’s worth of  Communication Arts digital editions and unlimited access to the commarts.com website; and exposure on Creative Boom.

Each applicant will also receive exposure through Art for Planet Earth and have their worked shared on social media, whilst a shortlist of 20 creatives will receive a professional evaluation. Every single person involved will enjoy a warm sense of doing the right thing.

Take inspiration from the artists who have used their creativity to shift perceptions and encourage a brighter future, be motivated by the small-but-positive changes that can impact the bigger picture, be moved by the issues that concern us all.

Over the coming months we will explore in detail creatives and their pursuits; uncover inspirational stories with change at heart; begin to understand how entwined art and activism are; and motivate you to find the inspiration within to create your own change. Art for Planet Earth is a platform with a vision for a better tomorrow, and these articles will help you to discern your position within that future. Your contribution has the potential to make a difference, use your ability to ensure that difference is a positive one.

By James Davidson