Climate activist Greta Thunberg has captured the world’s attention. The way she is speaking the truth so boldly and unequivocally to those in power is empowering. She also is not shy about calling them out on their lack of action to address the climate problems we face. It’s amazing to watch, but it’s also scary as hell.
Watching her outline the realities of where we are heading if we don’t make some drastic changes now is both inspiring and terrifying because we all know how slow governments are to make change, especially the change we need. But as our glaciers are melting faster than the glacial pace of bureaucracy, I’m finding hope by looking at what’s happening in the private sector. Where governments are failing us, individuals and corporations are rising to the task. Industries are finally taking a hard look at the cost their products have on the environment. Leaders and CEOs are making choices that consider how to minimize impact instead of maximizing profits. And, an army of entrepreneurs are incorporating environmental and social responsibility into their DNA from the start.
While government leadership and better regulations are no doubt needed, it can’t solve all the problems we face. Our waste and pollution problems are complicated, varied, cross international boundaries, and span almost every industry. What’s inspirational is the example of those who aren’t afraid to go against the grain in their industry and stand up for what’s good for the planet verses what’s good for the bottom line. Although there are literally thousands of companies doing things the right way, here are just a few of my favorites; from well-known to emerging.
Since the beginning, Patagonia has been a leader in environmental stewardship. Originally started by founder Yvon Choinard to create better anchors for rock climbing, he and his partner, Tom Frost’s first lesson was that success in business could be harmful to the environment. Their higher quality anchors (or pitons), were littering up and damaging the climbing walls which inspired them to start the company. Although the piton was the core of their business, they phased it out and replaced it with a removeable chock that changed the way people used gear to climb. That lesson learned back in the 1970s still guides the company today. Not only are their products created with the earth in mind, they have been fighting for protection of the planet with their advocacy and philanthropy. They even used the ten million dollars saved with 2017 tax cuts to give to environmental non-profits that are dedicated to protecting our air, water, and land.
Move over Van’s, these are the cool shoes that have been sustainable since day one. Their shoes are made from single use plastic bottles by first turning the bottles into flakes, converting the flakes into thread, then using the thread to weave into cute and comfy shoes. Using this method, they have recycled close to 40 million bottles. With bright colors and a variety of styles, plastic never looked so good.
This textile maker has been hard at work for about 5 years creating technology to turn discarded textiles into new fabric. While the technology is slow in coming, it has the potential to turn apparel trash into treasure. Currently they are working to launch a line of unisex sweatshirts made with their groundbreaking fabric NuCycl for Adidas by Stella McCartney due to launch in early 2020.
The processing and consumption of meat has a huge impact on the environment. Beyond Meat is making plant-based meat substitutes that improves the consumers health, reduces water waste, methane emissions, land consumption and water contamination, and is obviously healthier for the animals that would potentially be eaten. The difference between this company and other veggie burger brands is that is has been created to have the flavor of meat without having all the bad eco-baggage associated with even responsibly raised meat. By looking at the building blocks of meat, founder Ethan Brown was able to create a product that contained amino acids, lipids, water and small amounts of carbohydrates and trace minerals to create a tasty and earth friendly meal staple. For your next burger night, you can find a place to buy it near you.
This ecommerce site has highly curated and ethical brands representing home goods, clothing and accessories. For anyone looking to outfit themselves or their home, they have done the hard work of vetting brands and collecting them all on one site. All their goods are sustainable, fair trade, heritage (created using traditional/centuries old methods), made in the USA, and vegan. This site is a great place to get you and your home outfitted for the fall or get a jump on your holiday gift giving.
With all this good going on, it doesn’t mean we can be complacent in our efforts to speak out, write to our representatives, sign petitions and take to the streets. But it’s comforting to know that even if our leaders are slow to act, many of our business leaders and entrepreneurs are leading the way to a better, more sustainable future.