Seeking Net Green

Some time ago I was asked to start a list of things that individuals can do to reduce their impact on the ecosystems we all rely on for life. So, I’ll offer up just a couple of suggestions to see if there is any real interest in getting such a list started.

Before saying anything more, though, you should know that, after nearly four decades of related work and study, I see most of what passes for living lighter on the planet as at best mild mental sedation, and at worst, deeply cynical distraction. And I can provide ample example of this, including everything from “all-natural” personal care products encased in non-recyclable plastics, to the strung-out caustic chemical stew we call rayon viscose fabric made with bamboo.

And this is a problem because it implicitly denies the fact that we cannot consume our way out of ecological collapse unless what we consume reduces overall waste, helps clean up most of the mess we’ve already made, decreases our immediate and future dependence on fossil oils in all their forms, and works toward developing more robust local economies that increase regional self-sufficiency.

The good news is real change does not have to mean all or nothing. Double-digit reductions in anything harmful will make significant differences to the good. But this kind of change does mean facing-up to some very inconvenient truths about how we currently do things.

So, the primary thing I think individuals can do to be a part of the solutions is to try to stop being so much a part of the problems. And in this regard, we can start by seeing every product and service as just the tip of its manufacturing iceberg, and then take a hard look at what otherwise would remain out of view.

We can ask, for example, where things come from, how they are made, who makes them, how life in all related forms was treated in the process, and what all of this might mean for living and future generations near and far.

Simultaneously, we can strive to move beyond the goal of simply sustaining what we have by ‘leveling-up’ our thinking to include expectations for ecosystem regeneration and sustained economic growth that is decoupled from pollution.

In my business, for example, we work on the principle that every alternative product should be delightful, affordable & green. And by this we mean it should add experiential value, be accessible to the average person, and be ‘net green’ (i.e., contribute more to ecosystem health and wellbeing than it takes from it).

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