The Big Idea: changing mindsets for the environment - RSA

The Big Idea: changing mindsets for the environment

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  • Circular economy
  • Design
  • Environment
  • Fellowship

I come from an outdoor education background, playing in rivers, scaling rock faces and tramping over hills and through woods and it has always been instilled into me to leave nothing behind.  I spent a few years working in Canada where the ‘no trace camping’ ethic is very strong.  When I came to the RSA almost a year ago I was really interested by the work that was beginning on recycling and circular design.  Having been inspired by Yvon Chouinard’s book Let My People Go Surf and his company Patagonia’s work on recycled clothing it was great to see such an esteemed organisation stepping up.  There is a growing awareness that we need to reconsider our attitudes to waste, and recycling.  The RSA has been busy exploring circular design ideas through the Great Recovery project to reduce waste and promote cradle to cradle design and the RSA has also embarked on an exciting piece of work exploring makers and designers which was launched in June at Somerset House which hopes to raise awareness of new design and making principles to shift the conversation and create a new breed of designers and creators.

Part of the brilliance of Fellowship is that individuals and groups of Fellows are always seeking ways to improve, adapt and develop everyday products, practices and ideas for the betterment of society alongside our ARC Team.  We have Fellows in West Wales working to promote sustainable business practices using biomimicry and a better understanding of the environment and Fellows re-designing products that keep breaking on them.  Through theSocial Entrepreneurs Network and as East Midlands Regional Programme Manager I’ve also come across another.

Steve Ralf has been working with printer ink and cartridges.  Tired of the waste that occurs environmentally and economically he set up Inklusive Community Interest Company.  Steve is this fortnight's Big Idea blogger.  We spoke to him about his work and this is what he has to say:


The Big Idea: Steve Ralf FRSA runs Inklusive CIC, a social business that supplies ink and printing products. They hope to change the mindset of people when purchasing ink so that they consider the impact on the environment, and the harm caused to individuals, communities and the planet.  Steve wants to help people to adopt environmental and economical-friendly printing practices that reduce waste and support the growing interest in cradle to cradle manufacturing.  

The project hopes to change the mind-set of people when purchasing ink so that they consider the impact on the environment, and the harm caused to individuals, communities and the planet.  Inklusive is fully aware that as well as offering an environmental alternative it also has to offer high-quality products and a cost-effective alternative to the purchase of OEM (original equipment manufacturer) cartridges.  We have also developed an industry leading warranty that guarantees to replace your printer if our inks cause it any harm whatsoever.  To date, we have never had a claim against our warranty!


Through this project we have reduced the amount of lead and heavy metals found in landfill and saved thousands of tonnes of CO2 that would have been used in manufacturing processes by recycling, refilling and reusing existing ink cartridges.   We have also supported the development of printing and IT social business in Meru, Kenya and supported three schools to have electricity, the internet, computers and printers.

Inklusive like any good idea often needs a little support along the way.  The RSA Catalyst funding helped us to ascertain our best supply chain options. Instead of competing against businesses with shared ethics and environmental objectives, we have formed partnerships and built capacity in these organisations so that we are stronger together. Catalyst funding can be a great early intervention for new social businesses to refine their offering before embarking fully with their project. In addition to the funding, there is a plethora of knowledge and information amongst Fellows just waiting to be tapped. The value of this far outstrips the financial contribution!  So please sign up to SkillsBank so projects and ideas can be supported by like-minded Fellows.

How you can get involved

We are doing well but Inklusive would like to explore the most effective methods for taking our products and services to market. At present, we sell via our website and word of mouth and do not have a dedicated sales team. Despite this, we have experienced strong sales growth and believe that with the right strategic sales plan, we could grow faster and be more effective. We would like to explore social franchising or ways in which other like-minded businesses could benefit from selling our products.  So if you are interested in talking to us about either of these please get in touch with me on twitter where I’m @InklusiveCIC.

Steve Ralf

Founder & CEO Inklusive CIC


If you want to talk to your Regional Programme Manager about a project you are proud of or that needs that little bit of Fellowship support contact Richard Pickford who is @pickfordrich on Twitter or [email protected] on email.  We can connect you to other Fellows, sign post you to interesting groups on and provide advice on applying for Catalyst.

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  • Hi Lorna,
    Yes, very nice kit. I also have an addiction to Howies again now they have bought themselves back.

    If you wish to discuss ethical food and clothing I would steer you towards Julia your predecessor who is also interested in this debate.

    Katy Anderson is also worth seeking out when discussing food waste and a project called the People's Design Lab which I have just connected to Steve due to some work they are undertaking around InkJet printers.

    Thanks for the comment and your raft of emails over the weekend.

  • Thanks for sharing this Richard.

    I confess to owning quite a few (very lovely and durable) items of clothing and shoes made by Patagonia, and I like that they encourage consumers to look for second hand products before buying new from them. (They also share some amazing images on Instagram.)

    I'm really interested in Inklusive, and will be asking my work whether we can switch to buying ink and toner cartridges from Inklusive.

    Your post has also spurred me on around other things I could do at work since there have been a few changes.The people who blocked more ethical buying choices before have moved on, so perhaps I should be trying to influence things, and hopefully it will be easier than it was 12 years ago when I started and no-one would have fair trade coffee 'because it doesn't taste nice'.