A Living Game

Waste Not is a living game, meaning that it will be updated as conditions change. Much of what we play with is static, but our lives and behaviors shift as discoveries happen. In the early 90’s all of a sudden someone is making biodegradable packing peanuts where there were none before.

Upcycled Light bulbFor many years incandescent light bulbs just had to be thrown away. With a little creativity and intention, I’ve seen those light bulbs upcycled into vases, oil lamps, and more. While I’m not sure we can really use every light bulb that will no longer cast light, removing as many as possible from the waste stream turns them into resources.

What will creativity and innovation bring tomorrow? I certainly don’t know. That’s the best part of having a game that can be updated to reflect change. The text descriptions can be added to as players write back with their ideas, and as science makes progress.

Progress towards zero waste may one day mean that the understanding of our cycling process is simply understood and products are designed with this in mind. But until we get to that point we need to build and play with the understandings that are a part of the cycle. For example, there is no away. The food system is not a pyramid and more of a circle, or really many circles.

Supporting Waste Not on Indiegogo from now until March helps to raise awareness and help move society towards zero waste. That’s pretty awesome of you!

<3

PS The Earth said to say ‘Thanks a bunch!’
PSS In the next update: Film bags and technovomit…

Shades of Green

What is green?

We all see initiatives and products advertised as being green or sustainable.  Whether this is done as a component of corporate strategy or arises from a true belief of inherent ‘goodness’ most of the time on the scale of true worldwide sustainability, they are not without some impact.

My answer is that there is no black and white definition.

Within communities, corporations, small businesses, governments, and families there are different degrees of progress.  When a corporation is announcing a greening strategy or movement, good for them.  They have made progress.  But by no means are they now officially GREEN with nothing left to do.

Think of this situation like being in a dim room.   In a room that the occupants are used to they can see and because that is what they know, they accept it as being good, normal or right.  There is no questioning whether or not the light can get brighter.  They think it’s as bright as it can be perhaps, or they might not even question that more is possible.

If additional lights were added to the room it would be obvious to the occupants that at first the room was dark and now there is more light.  Who is to say that it can’t get brighter still?  Why settle for what we have if we can have and create a better world and society for ourselves?

It’s obvious when you see a green product.  It’s obvious when you see a sustainable community.   I think the question that we need to ask is can it get brighter?  Can it get greener?  And I believe it can.

Ghosttowns in the Hills of Italy and Tourism

I’m referring not to the haunting of the hills but the abandonment of villages.

Empty buildings.  Why?  They have the food they need.  The homes are beautiful.  Why would they leave?  I expect that these typically family-centric communities of 5+ houses become nonviable as the younger generation moves away and the older one dies.  Driving around, we passed two of these housing clusters that were  empty and another that was at half its potential occupancy.

Another challenge evident exists in housing prices.  According to one local, after the release of the book Under the Tuscan Sun and then the movie, prices of Tuscan villas shot sky high.  It makes me wonder if those detritus filled decaying homes might be bought and inhabited if the locals weren’t priced out.  I wonder if this same effect happened after the release of the book Eat, Pray, Love in the countries it referred to.

How to present the case for sustainability

Big Bucks advertising and marketing have got it down. They know how to begin marketing to someone at a very early age. They know that the wording of a slogan matters. They know that how you phrase an ad changes people perception. They know the colors and symbols used evoke emotion and connection. We should be using the same effective principles when we’re trying to help people to understand the new ideas and creativity we need to see in our world.

Too much of the green movement and those driving sustainability have been operating by making documentaries, writing books and doing talks.  If that were the best way to get a product or concept to be purchased and believed in, well you’d have tons of pro-Wal-Mart documentaries.  The bookshelves would be lined with books about Target being the solution. Scientific conference sessions would be dedicated to Nikes conforming perfectly to the feet of most humans.  But you don’t see that.  My intuition tells me that one of the reasons those tactics are not primary to corporations is because they don’t create a big demand in a short period of time.

We need to learn from this.  We, as in those of us who are interested in the sustainability of the planet. We need to take a lesson from the corporations who have been so effective in getting their goods and products into our minds. We need to market positivity and transformation in a way to generate ‘fanatic evangelists’ for these life sustaining practices. Gloom and doom, end of the world, ‘you need to change’, and non-interactive mediums will not create vibrantly alive communities. Interactive, hands-on, culturally aware, co-created approaches will.

‘How?’ You ask. Well that’s something for me to continue writing about, and for you to hire me to implement.  Check back in as these ideas unfold through my writing and feel free to share your thoughts via commenting.

What’s Peak Oil?

Out to dinner with my friend the other night I casually referred to Peak Oil in a discussion. We were talking about topics that might be potential articles on Earth Thrives. As it turns out he didn’t know what Peak Oil was. Hadn’t heard about it and didn’t mention the fact until I had rolled on to another topic.

This friend had spent at least the past two years running a company whose focus sales demographic was the triple bottom line business, and so I assumed that he of all people would know what peak oil was. Turns out I was wrong.

Over the next week I asked another ten colleagues and friends if they knew what Peak oil was. I expected that they would know when I asked and was not prepared to find that all but one of them didn’t.

I shouldn’t have assumed that my friend or anyone else, for that matter, has the same knowledge that I have. This is not to say that I am amazing, but more to show that my foci are unique to my interests. We all have our own interests which lead to what we read, look up and study in depth. The topics that I have spent more time with include (but are certainly not limited to):
Urban gardens, Peak Oil, sustainable communities, organization development; leadership development, GMO’s (genetically modified organisms), socially responsible business, alternative economies, and local living economies.

While I have spent that last two years immersed in the world of green and sustainable while working on my Masters degree from Goddard College in Socially Responsible Business and Sustainable Communities, not everyone else has gone as in depth in the same topics, even industry professionals.

Let’s face it, many people still think of sustainability as a topic that stands on its own, when it is really a lens through which you see the world.

So, don’t assume that if you bring up something like the Andersonville Study in a conversation about why buying local is important that the person you are talking to has a clue to what you just referred. Ask if they have heard about terms, studies, and topics that you otherwise might take for granted that they know. It will help you to educate yourself as well as others and that is what we need to have happen in order to build the breadth and depth of our information.

Branded!

Over the years I have read Adbusters, participated in TV turn off week, and generally avoided brands. I prefer to shop locally. I prefer to find great independent clothing designers, such as those that can be found on Stars and Infinite Darkness, who are more often in line with my beliefs that the larger companies. My look is more unique because of this. Spending my money this way makes me happy because I feel like I am supporting a more diverse marketplace. I am the last person that you would expect to see wearing all the ‘latest’ fashion trends. Granted there are some things that currently can’t be purchased unbranded or lesser known because of functionality and quality, just like not every community can currently produce for all of its needs.

While helping out at the StartingBloc 2009 Institute for Social Innovation, the fellows and volunteers received a number of items. The one that caught my attention the most was from Terracycle; it was their Reusable Target Bag. Very cool concept- it is made out of multiple layers of old Target plastic bags that were pressed with heat. Should it rip in the future it can go back into their system and be fixed. Love the concept, but I would be less likely to use it because of the very visible and prominent branding. I did take the bag because I give away reusable bags that I collect over time to people who need them. I figured I would give it away.

Upcycled Target bag by Terracycle
Upcycled Target bag by Terracycle

Before I could give it away, one day it was the only bag in the car and I had to use it or take new plastic bags from the store. I felt self-conscious walking into the grocery store with a bright red and white bag on my arm, literally covered in targets. Walking up to the register the cashier made a comment about it being deer season, and we started talking. From there I was able to talk about Terracycle and the great things that they are doing with upcycled materials, the importance of buying local, why it is a good thing to reuse bags and rethink waste, et cetera. With what was initially something I dreaded, I found that I was able to initiate a conversation on a topic that I am passionate about and get more awareness out to someone because of the branding. My discomfort with the brand was greatly lessened by the more comfortable ease into an important conversation.

So while I will still support Adbusters, buy local, and stay as unbranded as possible, I appreciate the opportunity that that experience gave me. I have Terracycle to thank for that.

From this experience I take the lesson that if you are trying to get a message out, it helps to meet people part way and allow them to ask instead of preaching at them. This instance indicates to me that conversation is enabled when you are living lightly in a friendly manner. What do I mean by friendly? I mean acting in a way that allows for an opening for the questions to be asked. And what does that mean? Well, I think we need to really think about how we present ourselves and our opinions. If the way I present myself is off-putting, it makes those ideas more off-putting. Consider what this means for the expansion of going green, being sustainable and saving the environment.