I didn’t anticipate just how long the line would be to get into the San Francisco Green Festival yesterday, but I was still able to catch some of Paul Hawken’s talk. (I recently finished The Ecology of Commerce, and I’m awed by how eloquently he writes about the relationship between business and the environment.)
Hawken ended his speech by saying that the key to the environmental movement’s success is community, and that “there can be no green movement until there is a brown movement, a yellow movement, a red movement, a copper movement.”
That made me think immediately of a new site that recently came to my attention: Black Brown Green is focused on integrating people of color with the environmental movement (while not excluding whites). There are still a couple of holes in the site—it plans to announce itself formally to the public on Dec. 1—but it promises to be a good resource for tips on how to make our daily lives more sustainable, discussion forums, and articles and videos about green issues as they relate to people of color.
More than one person has pointed me to this BoingBoing post about Actics, the self-described “ethical community for companies and individuals” that provides “a new way to live your ethical values through feedback,” so I perused the site with interest. It’s a concept with potential, but it needs work.
Granted, Actics is still in beta, but basically all you can do right now is read members’ takes on concepts like environmentalism, integrity, and charity (ho-hum statements like “Walk whenever possible,” “Pursue what matters in a meaningful way,” and “Enjoy helping others”), as well as how they support those values through their actions. You can also check out how people are rated by others in the community. Everyone starts with a neutral 50 percent; members can rate one another to nudge that number up or down, and can also give feedback on how to be more ethical.
What’s not clear to me is why Actics throws people and companies together in the same pot of stew. I’m far more interested in reading (and potentially generating) feedback and ratings on companies than individuals. And so far there are a lot more people than businesses on Actics. Then again, I suppose there’s value in knowing something about the folks who are rating and giving feedback to companies. But Actics should emphasize the people-vs.-business differentiation on its front page.
Another improvement would be the ability to search companies by business type. That way, someone looking for, say, an ethical graphic design firm could find some options and read about each one’s values to see who fits the bill.
Another question I have is whether Actics is preaching to the choir; after all, any company that joins must already think of itself as ethical to some extent. What about all the others outside the fold? Will Actics membership—and the potential to be highly rated on the network—become enough of a competitive differentiator that it will motivate less enlightened businesses to clean up their act and join?
December 2010 I haven't actually bought anything from Po-Zu yet, but I appreciate their awareness of the fact that many vegan shoes are made of petroleum products and aren't necessarily better for the environment than leather footwear. Po-Zu seems to set a high bar for itself when it comes to ingredients and supply chains.
March 2010 After running out of dish soap, I started using our good old bars of Sappo Hill out of necessity. But you know what? Our dishes are just as clean, and when I pick up the soap at our grocery store, the only packaging on the bars is the price tag. And did I mention the soap is awesome? We love the oatmeal bar.
February 2010 TMI alert: If you're a squeamish guy, read no further. I'm done with tampons! Instead, I'm using the DivaCup.
January 2010 Mr. Wallet Mouth and I both love Pact. Its underwear is made of organic cotton, and the company donates 10% of its sales to worthy environmental causes. Not only that, but the company is serious about eco-friendly packaging. Each pair of undies comes not in a plastic bag but in a little cloth pouch made from fabric remnants. I'm also impressed with how responsive Pact is over email; when I asked a packaging question, I got a nice reply from the CEO.
December 2009 After reading about Skoy Cloths, the biodegradable paper-towel alternative, on Fake Plastic Fish, I bought a bunch for stocking stuffers and my own kitchen, and I'm now a fan. They're lasting a long time, despite repeated washings in the laundry, and they arrive with minimal packaging.
October 2009 I was already of fan of Straus yogurt (see June 2007), but now I love it even more. According to Michael Straus, a son of the company's founder, Straus yogurt "is made, cooled, and set in stainless-steel vats, unlike most yogurts, which are poured while still hot into plastic cups to cool and set." As someone who's concerned about plastics and chemical safety, I'm happy to hear that!
July 2009 I'm using a lot more baking soda now that I'm making more of an effort to clean the house in a nontoxic way. But from now on I'll be buying Bob's Red Mill, since Arm & Hammer engages in animal testing.
July 2008 Started feeling extra-good about buying one of my fave meat substitutes, Tofurky, after learning that its maker, Turtle Island Foods, is an independent, family-owned company (Unlike Boca Foods, which is a subsidiary of Kraft, and Morningstar, which is owned by Kellogg).
April 2008 I'm going to start buying my canned beans from Eden Foods, for two reasons: it uses custom-made cans that don't contain bisphenol A, and it's an independent, family-operated company.
February 2008 From now on, whenever I order takeout or ask for a doggy bag, I’ll make sure to avoid #6 polystyrene containers (and, of course, Styrofoam).