Sustainable Careers

GoodThree: Design Thinking Forward

After fully immersing myself in the world of sustainability – and altering my lifestyle to match my restored values – I developed an excitement for a career in the field. Here I am, an ambitious, creative, perfectionistic 22-year old, vying for the opportunity to pair my public relations background with my sustainable lifestyle.

At 22 years old, I uncovered this opportunity.

GoodThree, a Pennsylvania-based design agency, offers an uncommon approach to creativity. By keeping careful watch of its resources, providing content for under-represented organizations and treating clients as if they were family, GoodThree plans to revolutionize the stigma surrounding east-coast design. To my excitement, this well-grounded agency hired me  to engineer an innovate brand that captured this “sustainable mission,” drafting content for each section of the organization’s webpage. I barely had to consider the offer.

How is GoodThree Changing the fabric of design? By thinking forward.

As you contemplate your own role in the world of sustainability, I encourage you to visit goodthreedesign.com and view firsthand how one agency plans to make permanent change.

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” (John Muir)

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Educating the Unaware

Avoiding the Extreme Greens

August marked the one-year anniversary of my life-altering semester abroad, and I’m excited to admit that simplicity still permeates my daily routine. I’m maturing and growing and adapting to life as a college graduate, all the while fighting to maintain the values I so carefully developed last fall.

To my surprise, my peers have taken notice, continually seeking to understand the root of what makes me, me. “Is this brand, you know, ethical?” they ask, and “Would you eat tomatoes from this company?”

When I arrived in Boston, Massachusetts to begin life as a young professional, my co-workers immediately picked up on my pursuit of a sustainable diet, boldly asking for suggestions and recommendations. Though honored, their interest in my way of life led me to wonder: as a closet hippie, how can I best influence those around me? Can my model of simplicity truly make a difference?

I’m convinced it can. The “green push” has, by all accounts, become a nationwide movement, drawing supporters from all ends of the earth who function from vastly different perspectives. These “greenies” seem to continually spread the same message: if we don’t become vegetarians, install solar panels on our roofs and ride bikes to work, the planet on which we live will deteriorate forever. I’m not one to disagree with this statement, though I am one to disagree with this approach.

You see, when we bombard our neighbors with personal opinion, we work to segregate the passionate from the unaware.  Becoming a societal outcast does little to attract others to a lifestyle that, at its core, benefits both our planet and our citizens, enabling  us look beyond our current context. Relatability leads to interest, interest leads to understanding and understanding leads to change.

So, as a closet hippie, how can I truly benefit those around me? How can I humbly educate those who contribute to our country’s overwhelming waste issue, infatuation with fast food and tendency to over-consume? By living my life as simply as possible while still keeping both feet in the world of the less-educated. Do I compost and shop at farmer’s markets and try to buy from socially-responsible brands?

You bet.

But I try to let my actions speak truth instead of my t-shirt, enabling my neighbors to keep me accountable. I want to make a difference, but I do not want to overwhelm; I want to be a source of truth, but I do not want to become an outcast; I want to be appreciated, but not overlooked. In this troubled world, I want to mix the passionate with the unaware, working to make my community a sustainable community.

“We cannot hope to create a sustainable culture with any but sustainable souls.” (Derrick Jensen)

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Sustainable Shopping

The Difference Between Needing and Wanting

Now a college graduate and soon to be Massachusetts resident, I have begun to consider the magnitude of my transition. Moving to a new place, to a new apartment, with new people, scares me. My comfortable college home so quickly evaded me that I barely had time to say goodbye, forcing me to look toward my professional career–and my first official move.

“Man, I need a lot of new things,” I remember thinking, shortly after accepting my position. “How do I furnish an unfurnished apartment?”

This thought process, though not entirely uncommon, led me evaluate my roll as an American consumer. Do I really need towels of every size and knives for every occasion? Do I really need a blender and a coffee maker and a set of color-coordinated mixing bowls? Or do these items simply represent convenient purchases, a way to fulfill a “first apartment essentials” checklist?

Perhaps my frustration with American consumerism is interfering with my judgement. Yes, if I were a coffee drinker, a coffee machine would warrant a place on my counter. And yes, a knife collection would make meal preparation more seamless. But as I sort through my checklist, I cannot help but wonder if somewhere, in this twisted system of over-buying, we have misconstrued the difference between needing and wanting, between essential and convenient. What’s the difference?

I see needed purchases as do-or-die items. I need a roof above my head for protection; I need basic cooking supplies to cook meals; I need clothes to cover my body. But I do not need a 46-inch TV or a Bluetooth Phone dock. These items are not wrongful purchases, by any means, though they teach us that we use the word “need” too often and “want” not enough. No, I don’t “need” lots of things before I move. I will survive without a comfortable couch or an LED TV. But responsibly and sustainably, I want to live a simple life, allowing a balance of purchases to shape my new apartment. I won’t “need” everything I buy; but I will distinguish the difference, ensuring that my wants do not become needs.

“Are these things really better than the things I already have? Or am I just trained to be dissatisfied with what I have now?” (Chuck Palahniuk)

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Farmers and Food

This way to the Farm Stand

We’ve finally made it through the colder months, when CSAs and farmer’s markets offer trimmed-down selections and dimmer colors. Now in the heart of spring, local farmers offer a renewed selection, driving local connoisseurs from miles away. What do you appreciate most about local eating? What items do you refuse to buy at the store?

Farm MarketI recently stumbled across LocalHarvest.org, a website that offers a local search for CSAs, farmer’s markets, Co-ops and all things local eating. I will soon be relocating to Quincy, Massachusetts, and was blown away by the detailed results LocalHarvest offered. I now have a personal collection of sites, addresses, ratings and offerings, all waiting for my arrival. Even in my own area, I noticed a number of locations that flew under my radar, opening up dozens of new possibilities.

Currently a LocalHarvest user? How has the site enabled you to eat locally?

Check out LocalHarvest here: http://www.localharvest.org

Photo courtesy of Michigan State University

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Simple Products

Simplicity – In a Smartphone?

For some time now, I have been tracking Mozilla’s forthcoming smartphone, a device known as “Firefox OS.” To my surprise, the internet world has responded with unwavering criticism and confusion, pulling consumers back toward mainstream devices. “It’s already a competitive market,” they say, and “it does nothing an outdated iPhone doesn’t.” Perhaps these critics are missing the very thing Firefox OS provides – a renewed perspective.

Don't judge too quickly. This simple phone aims to leave a lasting impact. Photo courtesy of Wired.com

Don’t judge too quickly; this simple phone has unexpected plans. Photo courtesy of Wired.com

So what exactly is Firefox OS? Well, it’s actually quite straightforward – it fulfills Mozilla’s dream of “building a better internet” by “keeping the power of the Web in people’s hands.” More simply, it allows Mozilla to provide an easy-to-use phone for the “second wave” of smartphone users–those who are not currently locked into an iPhone, Android, Windows Phone or Blackberry device. Sounds like a mediocre target market, right? Not entirely. Mozilla is aiming Firefox OS at emerging markets in countries such as Brazil, Portugal and Venezuela, again hoping to put the web in the hands of all people.

Like any imminent piece of technology, however, Firefox OS offers bouts of technical details. I’ll send you over to the Mozilla Blog for those – I like to focus on simplicity here. So, what do you need to know about this device? And why is it relevant? It all returns to Mozilla’s mission. If carried out effectively, Firefox OS will reach much of the developing world, breaking into a market that other major players failed to consider. In fact, Many analysts believe the U.S. market will be one of the last to adopt the phone, a testament to the device’s commitment to building a better internet.

Confused? Uninterested? Walk away with this: Firefox OS will provide developing nations with a cost-efficient, fully capable smartphone, offering wireless internet access where it did not previously exist. The selfless plan just may catch on: the first versions of the device went on sale yesterday, selling out within the first few hours of release. Perhaps the American consumers just don’t quite get it. To solve the problem, Firefox OS provides the perfect fix – a renewed perspective.

Convinced this plan will fail? Love Mozilla for all they do? Keep the conversation going by commenting to the left.

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Recognizing the Earth

Celebrating the Earth, Everywhere

As Americans, I so often wonder how our scope impacts our view of the world. Today, I spent time researching Earth Day events in Washington D.C. and New York City, developing pride in my country for its diligence in honoring this important day. A quick trip to the Earth Day Network, however, expanded my understanding. As I uncover the enormity of this event–one that reaches 192 countries and over one million people–I recognize that Earth Day does not simply represent an American holiday. In fact, it represents the very opposite.

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The view from Volcano Pacaya, just outside of Antigua, Guatemala. Views like this one provide reason to celebrate

Today, the far reaches of this planet celebrate the earth. Why? Because the earth unites all of us; we cannot travel without experiencing its providence. Take a stroll along the Belizean coast, through the Boston Public Gardens, by a small park in Central Pennsylvania, and you serve as a witness to its uncompromising beauty.

What are you doing to honor the earth today?

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The Trash Tragedy

What about Waste Land?

The background: For 34 years, a seaside mountain of waste and filth marred the image of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, causing environmentalists to chastise the country for its “environmental sins.” The landfill—called Jardim Gramacho—accepted 9,000 tons of trash per day, spanning 321 acres of land and growing to heights of 50 meters. Each morning, over 1,700 men and women traveled to the landfill to gather recyclable materials, collecting bottles and containers to be sorted, sold and traded. These individuals—known as the Association of Collectors of the Metropolitan Landfill of Jardim Gramacho—had stories to tell. In 2010, Brazilian-born visual artist Vik Muniz made their stories public, releasing the influential documentary “Waste Land” to a worldwide audience.

Although Waste Land first hit the market in late 2010, it took me until recently to watch the film through. And let me tell you–I’m glad I did. As the beginnings of the film unfolded, with Muniz sharing his passions for modern art and for his birth country of Brazil, I found myself expecting another “rich American saves the poor locals” story. I found something entirely different.

Through the lens of art, Muniz supports a community in search of a sustainable life. They have needs and ambitions just like everyone else, though they resort to trash picking to support their number one priority – their families. And so, through practical charity, Muniz sets out to humbly empower “the pickers,” teaching unity through art. This is where “Waste Land” separates itself–by articulating the need to provide sustainable aid, not just momentary relief.

As agents of change, this is our greatest asset. Not in traveling overseas with free shoes, building materials or personal agendas, but with an ambition to generate lasting change. Muniz is a teacher; he instills hope and community within the people of Jardim Gramacho, qualities that will last–and have lasted–long beyond Muniz’s journey back to southern Brazil.

Have you seen Waste Land? What message did the film leave you with?

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