In this year’s presentation, one of the major themes she identifies is the rise of the “sharing economy” or as Mary calls it, a shift to an “Asset-Light Generation.”
A simple translation of this term is: Americans buying less stuff. It is a trend that should not only inspirit sustainability advocates, but Americans all-around. Asset-heavy consumption has led our country to experience a rise in obesity, a rise in pollution, and a rise in debt, with a net impact of a decrease in quality of life.
So cheers to the rise of the “Asset-Light Generation” — there’s hope for us yet.
The greatest challenge for a non-profit is to get the message out. And often the best way to do that is with a video shared on the social networks and with supporters – with the hope it goes viral. But creating one can cost more than a non-profit budget can spare.
A problem the production company, Public Interest Pictures, solved for eight Los Angeles non-profits with the Non-Profit Short Film Festival. They brought together eight teams of professional filmmakers to create short inspirational videos for each non-profit, and in just 48 hours the results were spectacular.
I attended the film festival in downtown Los Angeles – at the HUB LA - and walked away motivated to learn more about each non-profit. My favorite was the glean club, Food Forward, that organizes volunteer parties to pick fruit in the city. Southern California is a former agricultural powerhouse and the ruins of that empire are everywhere. Every neighborhood has a lemon and orange tree with a sprinkling of avocado, persimmon, grapefruit, and more.
A better explanation is in the video from the film festival:
There are six more videos from the festival each with a great message. They should do wonders for each group when shared on the internet. And for those in attendance the event was great fun, with the crowd hooting and hollering for each non-profit. Plus, many of those filmed in the videos were there – including the latino family from the children’s video below. The little girl was so excited to see herself on the big screen.
It was an inspirational event from Public Interest Pictures - who has made previous social interest films Hacking Democracy and Broadcast Blues - and I hope they continue it next year.
Local food is an $8 billion industry and growing rapidly every year. But all that success has brought a series of problems, mostly because the food industry is not set-up for sustainable agriculture. Which means focusing as much on the land as on the food, with such ideas as organic, seasonal, free range, grass-fed, non-GMO, and more.
The 2012 Seedstock Conference discussed those problems and successes with a diverse crowd including venture capitalists and tomato farmers, and talks covering an interesting range of topics:
Scaling sustainable agriculture
Investment in sustainable agriculture
Agripreneur Fast Pitch Competition
Each talk contained the right assortment of experts and business owners. I was particularly impressed with the buyers perspective panel where representatives from Whole Foods and Fresh Point discussed getting local foods into stores and hospitals and hotels. It was a lot more about logistics, getting food into boxes and keeping things refrigerated, than I thought it would be. They said this is mostly due to the informal nature at farmers markets - cash and plastic bags – where these farmers operate.
And often the best part of these sustainable conferences is the food. Jason Reed, the founder of Seedstock, filled the breakfast, lunch, and networking receptions with superb fare. The coffee was from local favorite Groundworks and the lunch from Chef Erik Oberholtzer, cofounder of Tender Greens, was amazing. I don’t usually eat exotic grains like quinoa, but combined with local and seasonal vegetables and with a mint lemonade drink – I enjoyed it.
It was a premier conference with sophisticated people and I look forward to the next event from Seedstock.
If you send trash directly to a landfill not much happens, but if you recycle it a series of business touch the trash and that creates jobs. Here is a report from a few years ago that shows recycling creates 25 jobs, while sending trash to the landfill only creates one job (per ton of trash). A huge economic impact and one that highlights my favorite green idea - the double impact.
I’ve always believed the key to our green future is to find ways to improve lives as we go green. It can’t just be about sacrifices and volunteering, it also needs to help people. And that is usually the way it works, it just sometimes takes a little extra time to think things through.
Which makes recycling a valuable sector of the economy employing hundreds of thousands of people. A report from the EPA says there are “56,000 establishments that employ more than 1.1 million people, generate an annual payroll of nearly $37 billion, and gross over $236 billion in annual revenues.”
Now that is a double impact – jobs, GDP, and businesses for greening the planet.
Zero Waste is a design principle that goes beyond recycling to focus first on reducing wastes and reusing products and then recycling and composting the rest. Zero Waste works to redesign the system to mimic natural systems, recognizing that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and everything is a resource for something or someone else. Currently, Austin is estimated to lose over $40 million annually by sending materials that could be recycled or reused to area landfills.
Austin’s Zero Waste system will strive to recover that estimated loss and eliminate waste, or get darn close. This Plan defines success as reducing by 20% the per capita solid waste disposed to landfills by 2012, diverting 75% of waste from landfills and incinerators by 2020, and 90% by 2040.
Then, bringing the children into it with a program called Generation Zero. Offering educational programs at each grade level:
Kindergarten – 2nd grade – classroom composting
3rd – 5th – learning about recycling
Middle School – learn about landfills and visit a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF)
High School – history of trash in America
And, my favorite, offering discounts on the utility bill for reducing your trash. If you throw away more you pay more, allowing greener families to save up to $20/month:
24 gallon bin – $13.35
32 gallon bin – $14.60
64 gallon bin – $19.75
96 gallon bin – $33.50
This is exciting to watch Austin transform itself, starting from a very low recycling rate of 38% and moving all the way to zero waste.