Pssst…I don’t recycle all of my plastic. I frequently forget to turn off every light. My closet is not overflowing with organic cotton shirts. I’m not zipping around in an electric Chevy Bolt. My kids eat so many Twizzlers and M&Ms I should probably own stock in Red Dye 5. My showers are long. The water is piping hot. I like it.
(above image: modern prefab Solar Farmhouse from Deltec Homes, a 2000+ sq. ft., affordable green home available for $275K – $400K)
Don’t get me wrong, I want to make great choices for the environment. I just need it to be easy. Practically effortless, in fact. Sorry, polar bears, but it’s true.
The solution in a Lazy Environmentalist world is to make green solutions amazing. And by amazing, I mean beautiful, affordable and convenient. I mean easy and delightful. I mean so damn attractive, cost-effective, and delicious that switching over from standard, conventional choices makes life more awesome, not less.
I gave my first Lazy Environmentalist speech on the subject in 2007 when my first book was published. Invariably, no matter the venue, an audience member would push back during Q&A. His or her comment would go something like this:
“Josh, this all sounds well and good, all this stuff you’re telling us to buy to save the planet, but really I think you’re full of crap. We don’t need more consumption. We need policy changes and environmental regulations. We need the government to take action now.”
Murmurs of agreement would ensue. And I would play nice. I would reply that I generally agreed, but it was pretty evident that America did not yet possess the political will to take concerted action on the environment. In the interim, I thought consuming greener products was an important step we could all take.
(Here’s one of those talks. This one took place at Google.)
I’ve wrestled with my answer for years. Part of me always thought it was a cop out. Now I’m convinced of it. It’s also patently false.
We can, in fact, consume our way to saving the planet. We can solve nearly every environmental issue we face by buying green products. No, this is not an excuse for people to consume more. This is an opportunity for people to consume better, creating much less impact on the environment as a result.
Mother Nature doesn’t require people to be perfect green shoppers in order for her to thrive. Every scientist and eighth grader knows that nature’s ecological systems are capable of absorbing and processing waste. However, our civilization has stressed those ecological systems and thrown them out of whack.
Bringing humanity back into balance with nature is not complicated. A great way to grasp what to do is to recognize that there are only 4 things that create your entire impact on the environment. Just 4 things. And there are only 4 things in all the world that create the world’s entire environmental impact. Solve for these and you solve everything.
The 4 Things That Create Your Entire Environmental Impact:
1. Ingredients: what you put in you and on you.
Your food and drink. Also products like your shampoo and sunscreen.
2. Materials: what surrounds you.
Your couch, socks, shoes, and even your house. Includes all the components of those products like the glues, dyes, and finishes.
3. Energy: what powers your lifestyle.
The energy that lights your home, charges your electronics, powers your car, and keeps the airplane airborne on your way to vacation.
4. Waste: the stuff you buy but don’t use.
The empty shampoo bottle, the giant box your Casper mattress shipped in, and your depleted batteries.
Nothing else you or anyone else does creates environmental impact. Because there is nothing else.
Here’s what to do to create an awesome lifestyle that’s aligned with your environmental values. The more you, me, and everyone does it, the faster we create a thriving sustainable economy that operates in balance with nature. The faster we collect fist bumps from Mother Nature. The faster we win.
How To Create Your Awesome Green Lifestyle:
1. Ingredients: Put better stuff in you and on you.
Choose products made with more natural and organic ingredients and fewer ingredients altogether. These two concepts go hand in hand. When you eliminate the Red Dye 5 and all the man-made chemicals, you naturally get products with fewer ingredients. Tight.
2. Materials: Surround yourself with better and fewer materials.
Select clothing and accessories made of organic cotton, recycled poly, vegetable tanned leather, merino wool and other eco-friendly materials. Same goes for tables and homewares made of things like responsibly harvested wood and reclaimed and recycled materials. Some seriously dope designers are working in this fashion to enhance your choices.
3. Energy: Switch to cleaner sources of energy and use less of it.
We’re talking solar, wind, and your own two legs – that kind of thing. Use less means use more technology. Too lazy to turn the lights off? Get yourself a Clapper. Or a 21st-century version like a Google Home or an Amazon Echo. Some smart bulbs automatically shut off lights and even help you find your keys. You’ll be psyched and the planet will be too.
4. Waste: Recycle to extend the useful life of materials.
Bad ass companies like TerraCycle collect all sorts of packaging and turn it into products. Gazelle will pay you for your old gadgets so they don’t wind up in a landfill. Patagonia will take back your used clothing in exchange for store credit. Though it’s not entirely lazy-ified yet, tons of green innovators are making this step easier for the uber lazy. More solutions are coming fast.
(I created this slide for a talk I gave at Salesforce in SF to their employees this past April. My first stab at depicting what I’m describing.)
Being a planetary all-star and rocking a seriously rad modern green lifestyle is easy. Even environmental skeptics don’t stand a chance in the face of the massive wave of green innovation currently underway. You can be a doubter, a hater, or a fossil-fuel fan all you want, but when your car is electric, and solar panels on your roof are charging it because it’s the cheapest energy source available, the planet has won. That has nothing to do with political will. It has everything to do with outstanding green choices.