My son was born right before the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. As a new mom at home on maternity leave, I sat exhausted in my rocking chair feeding him and watching the coverage of oil spewing into the ocean for weeks on end. I had a newfound feeling of urgency to protect this little person from what seemed to be never-ending bad news about climate change and environmental disasters. I felt compelled to do something for my son and his generation. But what?
I decided to look for the most “sustainable” stuff I could get my hands on. The problem was, all the more “sustainable” options were not nearly as good as the traditional options. Whether that was a car, a stove, or a sweater, I researched every product only to be disappointed again and again. So I stopped looking, and I almost stopped trying to make more “sustainable” choices.
Then a strange thing happened. I started seeing Teslas zipping through the neighborhood. Everyone I talked to said they love their Tesla because it’s a great car. The fact that it’s greener is a bonus, but it isn’t why they bought it. They bought it because it’s fast, cool, handles well, has a frunk, a whoopee cushion feature, and karaoke on the navigation screen.
With this realization, I went back to looking for products that were better in general and also better for the environment. I started finding more and more. It turns out, while I had given up my search, other people and companies got busy making better things for us and the planet. Tesla is one example, but there are plenty more. Impossible Burger made a better burger, Ripple made a tastier milk alternative, Rothy’s made cute shoes made of recycled plastic bottles, and induction cooktops became a thing with celebrity chefs.
It turns out, the products and services I was looking for a decade ago have finally arrived. So I’m back to where I started. Looking for the next product that’s better for our health and wealth + our planet.
Some days it feels like what I’m doing is unnecessary. Greta Thunberg won Person of the Year. Smart companies are investing in renewables. Why bother writing about what’s already happening? But other days I’m reminded that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says we only have 10 years to drastically draw down emissions to avoid a major climate catastrophe. And that plastic production is expected to increase 40% over the next decade according to $180bn investment in plastic factories feeds global packaging binge, by The Guardian.
So I’ve decided that no matter what the news of the day brings, my job is simply to keep looking for the stuff that’s better for us and the planet. To learn from change leaders, and document the journey.