If you take the bridge in London over the Thames that connects Waterloo station and Southbank with Charing Cross Station, maybe a third of the way across look down over the side. Below the bridge just before the water you will see a sort of platform with lots bits of broken skateboards. Considering that minutes away just next to Southbank there is a small grafitti covered (and quite interesting) skatepark this is perhaps not so surprising, but why would the broken skateboards end up here?
I stopped and wondered how it had started. The fact is that it probably started when someone dropped their skateboard by accident there and it broke into a million different pieces or perhaps they broke their skateboard at the park, were walking home with it thinking that they could fix it, realized they wouldn’t be able to and just threw it over the bridge where it landed there. Chances are, maybe a few months later someone else was walking over the bridge with a broken skateboard, saw another one over there and threw theirs there as well. Over time more and more people started throwing their broken skateboards over the edge until, perhaps a few years from now, it will be a new cultural rule that if you break your skateboard at the park, you must lay it to rest over the bridge with the other bits of skateboard.
Who knows how, or why it started but I doubt that the first person who threw their skateboard thought that they were starting something and that is what I find fascinating. Isn’t this how so many things start, sustainability of course being one of them? We can sit and think about the perfect strategy, the perfect initiative but sometimes the most interesting and successful initiatives are the ones that just get started and grow. You hear this with Green Teams in businesses growing from 4 members to 4000 in a number of years or business schools organizing an initiative at the last minute that ends up engaging the entire campus.
In 1888 Beata Benz was apparently the first to drive a car across the UK. The challenge they faced was that there were not enough refueling stations along the way. Today electric cars face the challenge that there are too many petrol refuelling stations and not enough electric refueling stations. There are lots of things that don’t seem possible now, but all it takes is one person to plant that seed, whether by accident or on purpose to change things.