Prince Harry has global conservation on his mind. His next big environmental project—a community-based initiative that will focus on ushering in a more sustainable future for the planet—will launch alongside the new Sussex Royal charity in September. “We need to demand change,” the Duke of Sussex says. The first target: single-use plastics.
On July 23, Prince Harry joined young leaders from around the world gathered at Windsor Castle for a course run by legendary anthropologist and ethologist Dr. Jane Goodall. There, the duke shared his frustrations over wasteful plastic packaging in grocery stores, saying “a lot more” needs to be done by companies and consumers to tackle the problem. “It’s a dirty habit that’s become normalized,” he said. “Gone are the days when you’d just grab ten carrots, take them home and then just give them a shave. People are actually buying shaved carrots in a plastic bag. The younger generation are saying, ‘This is crazy. This doesn’t make any sense at all.'”
In recent years, Harry has made a continued effort to banish single-use plastics, including plastic bottles, straws, and wasteful packaging such as disposable coffee cup lids, from his life and home. “Companies need to start taking responsibility for it and they need to spend the money they’ve made in selling all this stuff to either start clearing [it] up or, even better, stop making it and finding alternatives,” he said. “There are alternatives.”
Harry voiced his views at St. George’s House on the grounds of Windsor Castle, where Goodall is holding a week-long global leadership meeting for her Roots & Shoots program, which aims to empower young people to make a difference in the environment. The prince met with students from 26 countries, including Chile, Iceland, the Netherlands, and the United States, who were selected to join the week-long residential stay, partake in classes, and share their personal projects.
“I truly believe that the heart of conservation and sustainability is about people,” Harry said in a speech. “For any of our efforts to succeed, an inclusive, community-centered approach where they benefit from safeguarding their natural assets is what works, and we have seen that proven time and time again, but sadly not to scale quite yet.
“The good news is that young people like you don’t need to be convinced that we must urgently intervene [to help the planet],” he continued. “You are actively doing this every single day, and your dedication to effecting change is outstanding … As my grandmother the queen once said, ‘Sometimes the world’s problems are so big we think we can do little to help. On our own, we cannot end wars or wipe out injustice, but the cumulative impact of thousands of small acts of goodness can be bigger than we imagine.'”
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Goodall is an international icon who rose to prominence almost 60 years ago, when her work with chimpanzees in Gombe lead to the first recorded observations of the animals using tools. In 1991, she founded Roots & Shoots, which started with just 12 pupils in Tanzania. Today, it’s supported in 60 countries with over 700,000 participants ranging from preschoolers to college students. The initiative helps young people get involved in environmental work by fostering leadership and inspiring them to launch service campaigns addressing needs relevant to their communities, including climate change, global warming, animal protection, and conflict resolution.
Today, the 85-year-old Goodall is a UN Messenger of Peace and spends 300 days of the year traveling for work. Her shared passion for environmental work is why Harry requested to meet her last December. Goodall told BAZAAR.com she immediately “clicked” with the Commonwealth Youth Ambassador during their first meeting at Kensington Palace, where they spoke about his conservation efforts in Africa. “[I’d like to] collaborate and work together to raise awareness about conservation and the need to conserve the natural world,” she said, adding that she hopes fans of Harry, who may not be aware of her legacy, will be curious to learn more. “[With] someone like Leonardo DiCaprio, who has a whole group of people who worship him and wouldn’t care about me, the same is true with Prince Harry. If he’s also supporting Roots & Shoots and the Jane Goodall Institute then that will open their minds to maybe wondering ‘Who is this Jane Goodall?'” she said, laughing.
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Goodall also met Duchess Meghan on June 13, when she visited the couple and their son Archie at Frogmore House. The Duchess of Sussex has long been an admirer of the activist. Says Goodall, “She told me, ‘I’ve hero-worshipped you all my life. You’ve been my idol since I was a child.'” Goodall, who got to cuddle a “very cute, very gentle” Archie during the visit, added that she also spoke to Harry about about fatherhood. “I told him, ‘Of course you’re interested in Roots & Shoots, especially now you have a baby,’ and he said, ‘Yas, of course.’ When you bring a child into the world today you have to worry about the future. If we don’t make change we don’t have a future, it’s as simple as that.”
Roots & Shoots is a perfect fit for Harry, who is a vocal conservationist and an inspiration to young people in his roles as President of The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust and Commonwealth Youth Ambassador. He’s already completed many conservation-based projects, such as helping relocate 500 elephants in Malawi who were danger of being poached, and working to rebuild the rhino population in Botswana. This fall’s tour to Africa will see several engagements focused on environmental issues.
During the Tuesday engagement, Harry spoke to small groups of young people who had written down their conclusions about issues from sustainable fashion to the need for urban eco-systems. “Well done, you guys,” he told one of the groups. “This is fantastic. We are not trying to save the environment because it’s pretty but because it’s integral, because it means everything to us and our lives.”
Before Harry left for the day, one student asked what peace means to him. “It’s living in harmony,” he said. “It’s being connected to things that matter the most rather than being disconnected. So many things that have been created today encourage a disconnect from human connection, and that’s where it starts. It’s at the point where you a have a lack of compassion and empathy for each other and you have a lack of connection and understanding [for] why the eco-system around us exists and how important that is to our very existence.”
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.