I was recently asked by the folks from the Patagonia Footprint Chronicles what I think the next steps are for creating a more sustainable world.
Here is my answer:
1. Prices need to reflect true costs. Lots of people say that they can’t afford green or sustainable product. But the fact is that the true costs of non-sustainable products are hidden. The price at the register needs to reflect the price to the planet for everything. We’re in the middle of a bank collapse due to false credit. What we don’t talk about is the bigger collapse of our natural environment that is looming, built on the same false credit in the natural resources world.
2. We need legislation. It’s the only way we’ll get renewable energy, cutbacks on chemical pollution, carbon pollution, and water overconsumption. The Obama administration started this ball rolling, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to rest. Call your senators, sign on-line petitions, speak out in support of pro environment legislation.
3. Resource recovery. We need to take recycling to the next level and figure out how to make all the goods we want and need in the world out of materials that have already been extracted and used. What I am talking about is a zero virgin material usage, mining landfills, 100% waste recovery.
4. Consumers (that’s you) need to demand change. You need to ask the companies that make your outdoor gear if there are restricted substances in its products, and how it is reducing materials, waste and water consumption. Don’t accept vague answers. Encourage your favorite companies towards transparency and truth. There is a lot of bad stuff that goes on behind the manufacturing scenes, and lots of companies in the outdoor industry are taking steps to understand what happens between the time their raw materials are harvested to when their backpacks, headlamps, boots and clothes are in your hands. Let them know that you care, and support them as they improve.
5. Consumers need to take responsibility. Often, up to 80% of the impact of a product takes place after you take it home. How and how often you wash your clothes, for example, has a significant impact on the environmental profile of clothing. Same with what you do with it once you no longer want your tent or camp stove.
Look for my interview, and interviews with other leaders of the Outdoor Industry Eco Working Group at the Patgonia Footprint Chronicals in September.