In an interview with the BBC ahead of this weekend’s Earthshot Prize, William said his eight-year-old son’s experience litter picking with his school, Thomas’s, in Battersea, had made him environmentally aware.
He said: “I didn’t realise, but talking to him the other day he was already showing that he was getting a bit confused and a bit sort of annoyed by the fact they went out litter picking one day and then the very next day they did the same route, same time and pretty much all the same litter they picked up again.
“And I think that for him he was trying to understand how and where it all came from. He couldn’t understand, he’s like, well, we cleaned this. Why has it not gone away?”
In his interview with BBC Newscast on BBC Sounds, William told presenter Adam Fleming he was worried George would still have to be talking about environmental issues in 30 years’ time “because by then we will be too late”.
He said: “But it shouldn’t be that there’s a third generation now coming along having to ramp it up even more. And you know, for me, it would be an absolute disaster if George is sat here talking to you or your successor, Adam, you know in like 30 years’ time, whatever, still saying the same thing, because by then we will be too late.”
The duke has previously spoken about the impact his young family have had on his environmental campaigning, with one aide saying he wants to be able to look his “children in the eye” and tell them he used his position to fight climate change.
He has also told how he and George watched a Sir David Attenborough documentary about the dangers posed to the survival of the natural world but had to turn it off because his son “got so sad about it”. And he spoke about the inspiration he received from his father Prince Charles and grandfather Prince Philip who were both environmental campaigners.
Speaking about his father, he said the Prince of Wales had “a really rough ride” when he first started talking publicly about climate change.
William, who in the interview also took aim at the rise of space tourism saying we needed to fix problems on earth first, is due to attend the inaugural Earthshot ceremony on Sunday at Alexandra Palace in north London.
The £50 million initiative is an attempt to find solutions to the planet’s problems throughout the next decade with winners in five different categories being given £1 million each to develop their projects.
They will be chosen by a panel including the Duke, Sir David Attenborough and actress Cate Blanchett.
Among the finalists are a community-led project in the Democratic Republic of Congo working to save gorilla habitats, a solar-powered energy generator in Nigeria and a solar-powered ironing cart designed by a 14-year-old in India. Also nominated is the city of Milan in Italy for its pioneering work to cut food waste.
William and wife Kate will both be at the event which is hosted by Clara Amfo and Dermot O’Leary. The duke said he hoped it would “stimulate solutions and action” and “galvanise a lot of people”.
The environmental prize is likely to be seen as William’s career-defining project, like his father’s Prince’s Trust or grandfather’s Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, and reflects his growing confidence on the world stage.