Why Does the Green Festival Make Me So Happy?

The second of San Francisco’s biannual Green Festivals wrapped up Sunday afternoon after serving what will likely be the most people ever at a sustainability related event (though official numbers are not in yet). It was the usual mix of incredible new gadgets (bicycles with frames made from Fair Trade bamboo), organic goodies, hemp and organic cotton clothing, healthy baby items, socially responsible investment advisors, wonderful speakers (Amy Goodman, Kevin Danaher, Bill McKibben….), a Nissan Leaf, Credo Mobile, live music, and of course, the organic beer and wine garden. Good times, good times.
Being a veteran of Green Festivals, there weren’t a ton of surprises in store for me (the bamboo bikes being one of the bigger eye openers), but there was nothing that was going to stop me from attending. In the organic beer garden, I discussed with a colleague why Green Festivals leave me so fulfilled. A passage from The Geography of Bliss (NY Times Bestselling novel about the pursuit of happiness and why some find it and some don’t) jumped into my mind, and helped me connect the dots in the green economy.

Author Eric Weiner writes from Qatar, a nation whose overnight wealth has not translated into happiness for its citizenry, that the Muslim call to prayer remains an institution more powerful than the oil money that has radically altered the tiny country over the last 50 years. Why? Because of the community it creates. And it hit me–this is exactly what the Green Festival is for the green businessperson.

“Hell is other people,” wrote French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre. According to Weiner, “Sartre was wrong….Social scientists estimate that about 70 percent of our happiness stems from our relationships, both quantity and quality, with friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors. During life’s difficult patches, camaraderie blunts our misery; during the good times, it boosts our happiness. So the greatest source of happiness is other people–and what does money do? It isolates us from other people. It enables us to build walls, literal and figurative, around ourselves. We move from a teeming college dorm to an apartment to a house and, if we’re really wealthy, to an estate. We think we’re moving up, but really we’re walling ourselves off.”

Living and working in the green economy is perhaps the most fulfilling experience I can imagine. There’s literally no place I’d rather be. But sometimes, the life of an entrepreneur is an isolated one. With that in mind, and my revelation Sunday at the Green Festival, I would encourage everyone working as an entrepreneur or an intrapreneur, student or professor, to find a handful of peers with whom you can travel your green business journey. While happiness in itself won’t heal the world, more successful green entrepreneurs will. But to be a successful, recharged, and fulfilled green entrepreneurs, we need community.


Scott Cooney is the author of Build a Green Small Business (McGraw-Hill) and Principal of GreenBusinessOwner.com

Scott Cooney, Principal of GreenBusinessOwner.com and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill, November 2008), is also a serial ecopreneur who has started and grown several green businesses and consulted several other green startups. He co-founded the ReDirect Guide, a green business directory, in Salt Lake City, UT. He greened his home in Salt Lake City, including xeriscaping, an organic orchard, extra natural fiber insulation, a 1.8kW solar PV array, on-demand hot water, energy star appliances, and natural paints. He is a vegetarian, an avid cyclist, ultimate frisbee player, and surfer, and currently lives in the sunny Mission district of San Francisco. Scott is working on his second book, a look at microeconomics in the green sector.In June 2010, Scott launched GreenBusinessOwner.com, a sustainability consulting firm dedicated to providing solutions to common business problems by leveraging the power of the triple bottom line. Focused exclusively on small business, GBO's mission is to facilitate the creation and success of small, green businesses.

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