Sunday, August 24, 2008

Look! Another new bright shiny object.

According to Ashoka’s definition of a social entrepreneur:

“The job of a social entrepreneur is to recognize when a part of society is stuck and to provide new ways to get it unstuck. He or she finds what is not working and solves the problem by changing the system, spreading the solution and persuading entire societies to take new leaps. Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry.

As I'm reading through various "green" blogs, I can't help but notice that there are two distinct types: those that discuss actual changes that individuals and society can make to live more sustainably and those that tend to focus on highlighting products that are made using less harmful resources.

Obviously, our consumption needs to be focusing on products that do less damage to our environment as well as conserving a diminishing supply of materials - but isn't the fact that we buy so much crap in the first place a big underlying part of the problem? If you run down to the mall to buy another T-shirt (this one made of organic cotton) or have it shipped in through FedEx - how much different is everything? Is there any less transportation cost? Is there any less packaging to wind up in the land fill? Has the profit from that sale remained in the local community or been shipped off to Wall St or Little Rock?

What it really boils down to is really pretty simple: How many shirts do we need? How many pairs of shoes? What do you do with one more "eco-fabulous" lamp?

My grandparents generation provided for themselves nicely, without overdoing it. Without a doubt, they worked harder than I ever have and had less "stuff" to show for it. But they were happy with their lives. They were quietly proud of their accomplishments as opposed to having to drive the newest, bestest Lexus or Mercedes to show off to everyone.

My grandfather owned a handful of shirts - some he wore to work, one or two that he changed into when he came home and got cleaned up and one or two that he kept for good - things he'd wear to church or weddings. Of course, things seemed to last longer back then. They weren't made for a throwaway society, but for hard working people who wanted the most value for their money.

During my 15 years in real estate, I watched the closets in new homes grow exponentially. The closet in my grandfather's room wasn't even big enough to be placed in the entry foyer of the homes they were building by 2000, much less a bedroom (of course my grandparents got along just fine without an entry foyer all those years as well). And people were rushing out to fill those massive closets with stuff. We get guests checking in now for a one night stay that have 2 and 3 large suitcases - crammed full of stuff.

It's really a shame to see the issue of creating sustainable futures being taken over by the "we must continue our lives as mass consumers" crowd and even worse to see it being promoted as a good thing. What is it about our society that causes so many to bury their heads in the sand? Why are they so focused on things instead of people? Why do they want to spend more time shopping than taking a bike ride or talking with someone they care about? Or doing something to make a difference in someone else's life.

It's been a good morning to clear out blog rolls and start eliminating some that so totally focus on the next "green" product.

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