By Dennis Salazar
I am not a Gen Z, a Y or even a Gen X. At best I would be classified as a late baby boomer and in my wallet you are likely to find my AARP card along with my Green America and my Hispanic Chamber of Commerce membership cards.
I don’t drive a Prius (though my wife drives a Honda Insight and loves it), and none of our cars are likely to ever display an Obama in 2012 sticker. (I may not vote to re-elect ANYONE!) I would rather die (and I undoubtedly will) than eliminate meat from my diet and have been known to recklessly and without any sign of remorse, buy and drink water out of a plastic bottle. I also have to admit that on more than one occasion, security cameras have caught me shopping at Wal-Mart (gasp) and using plastic shopping bags. (Considerably bigger gasp!)
No, I am not the stereotypical “greenie” and it is most obvious that the war to save the planet did not recruit or draft a middle age, Hispanic guy like me, but there is also no doubt that I am a most eager volunteer. I may not fit in all green circles but I do the best I can and by the way, I also make sure to recycle every single plastic bag and bottle I ever use because I am convinced there are times and situations when plastic is the most practical and sustainable product solution.
It Takes a Planet to Save One
As the 40th anniversary of Earth Day approaches what has most struck me is the unique blend of people of varying ages, background and interests who are involved in the work and the celebration. Attend a green festival and you are likely to see young business people walking alongside or chatting with hippies from my generation who remarkably appear to be wearing the same clothes they wore forty years ago. Now, THAT is sustainability.
In business we are fortunate to work with some of the oldest and greenest companies in America, as well as new born, home-based businesses that may be only weeks old. I marvel at the companies like Method Home and Stonyfield Farm who chose to be green before it was popular or perhaps even cost effective. I applaud them for understanding sustainability is a continuous process rather than an objective.
I am grateful to people like Sharon Rowe, the founder of Eco Bags who was selling reusable shopping bags twenty years ago, before they were trendy, and available on every street corner. Men like Tim Smith, who helped to make Shaklee one of the greenest companies in the world. Good, green soldiers never retire; they just find a different way to serve the cause. Tim now operates his own business, aptly named “All About the Future”. And good guys and friends like Robby Meadows of Nashville Wraps who is leading an entire industry (gift and decorative packaging) into a greener way of doing business and Rich Cohen of Distant Village who was talking about the importance of social responsibility before it was a great sounding bullet point on everyone’s corporate mission statement.
Much Gained but a Long Way to Go
The pessimists may point to the half empty glass but I believe we have accomplished a lot in the last forty years and I am thrilled to see the interest, activity and positive results accelerating. Certainly few will argue we have probably accomplished more in the last five to ten years than in the previous thirty years, but sadly not in terms of legislation. For example, the Federal Clean Air Act was passed in 1963 and last amended significantly in 1990, twenty years ago. Does anyone in Washington realize how much has changed and how serious the problem has become over the span of two decades?
I am not a fan of more government intervention in our daily lives but I also realize some things are simply not going to happen until they become law and some people are not likely to adopt positive behaviors until they have to. I believe we need a comprehensive and consistent national recycling policy and an infrastructure that encourages recycling rather than disposal. Who knows, it may even create a job or two along the way.
My second on a long list of wishes is that the FTC would get a revised version of their green washing guidelines out. There has been a lot of innovation, real and imaginary in the area of sustainability during the last five years and none of it is addressed in the current guidelines. Consumers are being bombarded by green messages and much of it is nothing more than green smoke.
Overall though, the planet is slowly becoming a better place to live but the continued effort and commitment from everyone is needed and gratefully accepted. I think that is what I appreciate the most about the green movement as it has evolved over the course of the last forty years. It is incredibly inclusive and even a slightly out of the ordinary and imperfect, green sinner like me can repent and contribute to the solution.
Happy Earth Day!
Dennis Salazar is a prolific writer on sustainable packaging and is president and co-founder with his wife Lenora of Salazar Packaging inc..a company focused on stock and custom green packaging solutions. They are also creators of the Globe Guard line if eco friendly packaging products and www.GlobeGuardProducts.com which is the first internet store featuring green packaging supplies.