Podcast

Adam Werbach: The Future of Sustainable Business

Combining social mission with corporate ROI
Sunday, February 10, 2013, 10:07 AM

Adam Werbach has been at the vanguard of the sustainability movement since high school when he founded a national organization of over 30,000 student volunteers who mobilized around environmental projects. A few years later, at the age of 23, he was elected the national President of the Sierra Club - the youngest in its 100+ year history.

In 2004, Adam turned the environmentalism movement on its head by publicly decrying its outdated thinking and lack of progress, given the scope of its mission. He challenged its followers to link their goals to other broad social and economic ones in order to have more impact.

He led the way, controversially, by working with Wal-Mart in 2006 to help them integrate sustainable practices into their supply chain and operations - a model he subsequently brought to many of the world's largest multinational corporations in over 80 countries.

In this interview, Chris and Adam discuss the "sustainable business" movement and its future prospects, including such questions as What does sustainability really mean? What are the key success requirements? What models show the most promise today?

On Business Sustainability

Here is the transition we have seen: We have environmentalism as the framework for that set of things necessary with actions to protect the earth. What ends up happening, one of the reasons why companies in particular and so many institutions weren’t able to adopt environmentalism, was it was largely a kind of a political or ideological goal set that wasn’t actionable by them.

The broad term “sustainability” as a business context has four components: social, economic, environmental and cultural. So instead of just figuring out how does this action protect the environment? the question is how does this action make my enterprise more sustainable? How does it actually push culture, the culture in the company inside and out, how does it move that, how does it move the economics of the initiative we are looking for? Does it save me money? Does it increase my bottom line? What is it doing for society? And what does it do for the environment? How do we blend all of these things together?

In the context that I use it, sustainability in a business context really means long-term profitability. It means the ability of an enterprise to continue into a long term. Part of it involves the missing link in the way that many businesses have been operating -- in the United States in particular -- which has been one of the core reasons why we see this quarterly profit push that has built not a lot of value for shareholders and also has these negative externalities that we see in terms of the environment.

On the Future of Business Sustainability

I think this is completely inevitable: Resource productivity and basically making things work better will just happen. It just does not make sense to constantly make new things from the things we have that are good. It doesn’t make us happy. It is expensive. The formal economy, in durable goods from toasters to bicycles to camping equipment to kids clothing to clothing, is about a trillion dollars a year in the United States  a trillion dollars a year. The informal market for that is much bigger. That means every time you borrow something from your dad, or you give maternity clothes to your sister, or you give a hand-me-down to someone else, or a neighbor borrows a shovel, that happens many, many more times than if you go to a store. It is decreasing, actually, because of the separation that we feel in the communities we live in. What ends up happening is, it is easier to order something on Amazon.com than to ask a neighbor and see if they have it.

What we haven’t seen is the same type of software technology and care and marketing, frankly, to the informal economy as we have in the formal economy. So when we start having the same things, you would expect to see when you go to Amazon.com to know when it is available, to see a picture of it, to be able to get it delivered. The things that you have in your friends’ closets, I think the world is going to start choosing that just because it is easier, it makes sense, it saves money. Actually, in the end, it is more fun to see your friends than to click around online. I actually think it is inevitable. The challenge is, we don’t yet have enough people throwing themselves into it. I think that is why the dialog we are having today is so important and what you are trying to bring about.

Things are the way they are because we made rules to make them like this. We have to change that. We change that with recycling. That has to be a step. Recycling didn’t exist 30 years ago in America. Now most people understand that you don’t throw away valuable resources. Reuse will similarly be a norm. In the same way, we spend lots of care buying things and bringing them into our home. We will understand that maintaining those things and putting them into other people’s hands will be similarly an important and well-respected pathway.

Key Trends to Watch

A trend forwards is productivity per unit of energy.

There are a couple of macro ideas in economics that are on the fringes that I think move into the center. I think one is the fact that we have a circular economy. It has been championed by Bill McDonough and Daniel MacArthur in Britain that suggests that we are moving from a make-take-waste economy  making something, taking it and then throwing it away  to a more circular economy where you take something, you make it into something else, and then you put it right back in the cycle. So the waste of one item becomes the feedstock for the next.

The other idea is this idea of collaborative consumption, or the sharing economy ,where we are actually finding ways to with each other consume items together. You don’t really consume a baby stroller, but you in this case encourage the creation of a better baby stroller that I can use, and I can pass on to my sister, and she can pass onto her brother-in-law and it can keep on moving. That idea we are seeing in all sorts of different sectors. We have seen that with zip car, with car sharing, we have seen it with Airbnb with renting out your extra rooms; we don’t need to build a new hotel. We have seen that in information sharing, Wikipedia. In traffic data with Waze. We are seeing lots of places where we are collectively coming together and making our resources much, much more effective and getting more utility out of it by our collective resource sharing.

The third concept is like what Bill McDonough calls “cradle to cradle” – this idea that you are thinking of a product throughout its entire lifecycle. So when you make it, you think about do I actually just sell this product ever, or actually sell this product as a service? Consider DetailLab, which is a 40,000-person Fortune 500 company based in Minnesota. They are the biggest buyer of dishwashers in the world. Most restaurants that you eat in have a DetailLab dishwasher. They lease it to the restaurant. Restaurants fail all the time. If they fail, they take it back. They rent the dishwasher as a service to the company. So instead of each company having its own dishwasher, if they go out of business or move locations, DetailLab does it. The best thing about DetailLab is they push the manufacturers to make [dishwashers] better, because it is in their interest to have a better functioning dishwasher that they don’t have to go and service every week.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Adam Werbach (41m:07s):

Transcript: 

Chris Martenson: Welcome to another Peak Prosperity podcast. I am your host, of course, Chris Martenson. Today I am really pleased to welcome Adam Werbach as our guest. Adam has been one of the most visible standard bearers for the environmental and sustainable commerce movements over the past 20 years. At the tender young age of twenty-three, he was elected national President of the Sierra Club. He later formed Act Now Productions, a consulting firm that helps both non-profits and major corporations such as Sysco and Procter & Gamble go green. We are going to find out what that means.

Act Now was eventually rolled up into Saatchi and Saatchi, which allowed Adam to scale his global sustainability efforts across 80 countries. He is now CEO of Yerdle, a start-up for giving away things to people you know or getting things you need from them.

On today’s program, we are going to discuss the future of sustainable business. What does sustainability really mean? What are the key success requirements? Are there any? What models show the most promise today? Adam, it is a real pleasure having you on our show.

Adam Werbach: It is great to be with you, Chris.

Chris Martenson: Thanks. You have a very accomplished resume for someone who is not even 40 yet. Can you give our listeners a quick background on how you came to the sustainability movement? I think what I am really interested to hear is, how did you come to choose this as your life’s focus?

Adam Werbach: Well, I guess it was a number of choices over a period of time. I first got involved when I was really a little kid. I remember in second grade I somehow found a position to oust James Watt, who was the Secretary of the Interior for Ronald Reagan.

Chris Martenson: I remember him. Yes.

Adam Werbach: They were sending these petitions to everyone, I saw it on my parents’ table, and it said sign your name, and we were working on our cursive that day. I brought it in for show and tell, signed my name, and got everyone to sign their names. It felt pretty good. The teacher was into it, too she was into the idea of having me walk around to the rest of the school and get signatures. And I collected like two or three hundred signatures and we sent them in. That was joined together with about another million signatures, and eventually James Watt was ousted.

I think from a very early age I got a sense that you could actually do something even if you were very young. You could be effective. That tied in with just a real love of nature and seeing it. I grew up in Southern California, so living in smog-laden days and watching the nature behind my house be destroyed I think primed me to do something about this.

Chris Martenson: I certainly share the same upbringing. One of the things I have noticed in the East is one of my practices if I am ever driving on the road and see a turtle, I will stop and put it in whatever direction it is facing on the other side of the road. It has been about 10 years since I have stopped; not because I have lost interest in turtles, but because I have not seen them anymore. I share with you the sense that my own short life, relatively speaking, has seen extraordinary changes come about.

This is interesting. You got into the world of sustainability, and how is it you came to be leading the Sierra Club at such a young age? What happened there?

Adam Werbach: I kept on with little bits of activism. In high school, I started a group of high school students working on environmental issues in Southern California. We eventually hooked up with the Sierra Club and asked the Los Angeles chapter if we could help organize students for them. That idea just kind of spread. We had what was called the Sierra Student Coalition, and about a year after we started it we had about 30,000 students across the country organizing on issues in our neighborhood, from lead poisoning, to air pollution, to nature preservation. Again, it was very grassroots and very informal; just the dawn of electronic communication using BBSs and that thing to spread the word. And we all graduated from high school and went to college. We took our ideas to college and it spread from there.

The Sierra Club actually tried to shut us down. I guess that is the response to all volunteer revolutions. Through some foresight, I had some of the older members of the board of directors decide not to shut us down but to adopt us as the student arm of the Sierra Club and put me on the board. A few years later, with the support of David Bower who is a legendary environmentalist, I became the president of the organization.

Chris Martenson: And how long did you remain as president?

Adam Werbach: I did two terms. A couple of years. That was enough.

Chris Martenson: In 2004, you presented a then-controversial speech entitled The Death of Environmentalism and the Birth of the Commons Movement. I believe you presented that at the Commonwealth Club, which challenged the environmental establishment to adopt a completely different approach and start linking its goals with other broad social and economical ones. What really led you to conclude that some seismic shifts were needed in the movement?

Adam Werbach: I believe everything we know about climate change today we knew 20 years ago could even be 30 years ago we know it in more detail now. We know that this is an existential challenge to humanity, to our culture, and to the way we are living. We definitely need to organize our politics around trying to stop it. The one movement that is set up and funded, and bears the responsibility as much as we can to do something about it, is the environmental movement. But even though I spent my entire life in it, the truth is, we have done very, very little. We have not moved the ball.

And I had this experience in 2003, 2004, after the Kerry election, the failure to elect John Kerry – I am talking to all of my colleagues in the environmental movement and saying what is your realistic plan for just throwing even a weight upon the change? Everyone laughed. That is unreasonable to think about right now. We are just trying to build political will, political momentum.

What I concluded at the time was really that the environmentalism that was born in the 1970s, where you had used science to identify a problem like air pollution or water pollution, then you would use government regulation or laws to actually stop it. Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act. And then you would litigate if people violated it, which really worked in the 1970s; that wouldn’t work against climate change. We have to do something completely different to get public support that we need to pass major climate change legislation or change the way we live in order to survive on a warming planet.

Chris Martenson: Are you saying that the political arena is not the right way to tackle certain things? Or has the political arena really lost a lot of its capability or capacity to effectively mitigate today’s pretty convincing problems?

Adam Werbach: I don’t think we can opt out of politics. And I continue to believe that is absolutely critical. For those of us who are tuned into these issues and understand that we need to protect our families and our communities, we still have a responsibility to organize the body of politics. It is not enough. And particularly around the time of 2004, the last decade, we saw the Bush Administration be completely reticent about any change.

And the reason I started working with big companies was because that was an arena where companies actually totally separated from their Republican Party dogma that climate change is a hoax. They understand they need to plan for it. It is affecting their supply chains already. And they actually were ready to move forward even though their government politics would not. The change for me would be, let’s just go find a different arena and work in that one, because not that politics isn’t important; there just was no progress that was happening there.

Chris Martenson: Well, and a lot of the frontline decisions, such as they are, are being made at the corporate levels anyways. This is where actions and money and materials are all being dedicated to getting one outcome or another. There is quite a bit of action there, I guess.

Adam Werbach: Before 2004, 2005, there was an ideological wall between corporations and the environmental movement. Companies would actually choose not to take an action that would make them more productive or increase the efficiency of their supply chain or make their products better, because it seemed to be wrapped up in green dogma and they didn’t want any part of that.

Truthfully, I think the moment that I point to as a critical moment was the moment when Wal-Mart the king of companies and supply chains, with sixty thousand suppliers across the world really said this isn’t some crazy stuff from the West Coast. It is a way for us to save money for our consumers, for our customers. And we expect all of our suppliers to do the same.

That, just like a light bulb going off, flipped a switch. For the last seven or eight years, what we have seen is really just this leap forward among companies embracing efficiencies throughout the supply chain. There is still a long way to go, but that really didn’t exist, at least in the way we have seen it, before that time.

Chris Martenson: Great. I am really fascinated to get to how, specifically, companies are embracing all of this, in large measure because I believe that the environmental movement has in some cases framed itself as in opposition to business. It has always struck me that, framed the right way, business and environmentalism are actually on the same side of the playing field and ought to be less adversarial and more aligned in some ways.

Before we get to that discussion, then, let’s be really honest here. I am not really a fan of the word sustainable at this point, or any of its derivatives. I think it is a little vague. It implies a lot, but delivers little. Such as, in Europe now, I keep reading about sustainable growth, which feels like an oxymoron to me. What are your thoughts here?

Adam Werbach: I wrote a book called Strategies for Sustainability, so I do actually have a passion for the word, but I absolutely agree with your critique of it. Here is the transition we have seen: We have environmentalism as the framework for that set of things necessary with actions to protect the earth. What ends up happening, one of the reasons why companies in particular and so many institutions weren’t able to adopt environmentalism, was it was largely a kind of a political or ideological goal set that wasn’t actionable by them. The broad term “sustainability” as a business context has four components: social, economic, environmental and cultural. So instead of just figuring out how does this action protect the environment? the question is how does this action make my enterprise more sustainable? How does it actually push culture, the culture in the company inside and out, how does it move that, how does it move the economics of the initiative we are looking for? Does it save me money? Does it increase my bottom line? What is it doing for society? And what does it do for the environment? How do we blend all of these things together?

In the context that I use it, sustainability in a business context really means long-term profitability. It means the ability of an enterprise to continue into a long term. Part of it has been the missing link along the way that many businesses have been operating, in the United States in particular, which has been one of the core reasons why we seen this quarterly profit push that has built not a lot of value for shareholders and also has these negative externalities that we see in terms of the environment.

Chris Martenson: I am very interested now to hear about the ways in which this thinking is shifted in companies. I heard a couple of hints there that these things play well in the bottom line, which is, of course, also a win for business. You mentioned there are four big pieces there. You have socially, economic, political, cultural… I believe soon after you started consulting, Wal-Mart was one of your early companies. The company was then viewed, I think, as one of the non-greenest, least-sustainable, conventional corporate juggernauts out there in the press. First of all, what reception did you receive, and how successful would you judge their efforts so far? What has really transpired there?

Adam Werbach: I think the biggest gift that Wal-Mart has given to the environmental or sustainability movement is legitimizing this as an act of field or business play. Wal-Mart made a commitment in 2004/2005 to do three things. One, to be powered 100% with renewable energy. Two, to reduce their waste. And three, to stock items on their shelves that would sustain the earth’s resources, which were mouth-dropping commitments at the time. They caused a lot of laughter in the environmental movement among some of my colleagues.

While we were approaching them helping with those, I thought they were kidding until I saw they were actually they included these challenges into what they were trying to do to re-fashion the company. Basically, after Sam Walton, the charismatic founder, had passed away, they had been searching for a way to have that passion that he had inspired in the company. They wisely understood between the chairman of the board, Rob Walton, and the CEO at the time, Lee Scott that they could use sustainability as a way to lower costs, to cost-center their supply chain, to re-engage their associates with a purpose greater than just the bottom line. And they could actually have a way to push innovation to their own supply chain. This is a pretty bang-up management tool for a leadership team.

Chris Martenson: So it became a new set of guiding principles, or a higher guiding principles on which things get organized, then.

Adam Werbach: That’s right. A higher purpose.

Chris Martenson: A higher purpose. I love a higher purpose. In their case, how successful has this been? What are the real changes since they set those goals?

Adam Werbach: You cannot walk into a Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club and not see those changes. Literally every single product in the Sam’s Club has been touched by this, from the packaging change to ingredients change to less toxicity. You go to the back of a Wal-Mart from what it looked like in the past, the amount of waste coming out of the back of the store, and they used to pay to throw away cardboard! Now people pay them to take their cardboard away because it is a recycled resource. They have reduced bottle sizes on products: Tide, the best-selling detergent, they reduced their package size radically. Which means they are shipping a lot less water across the country to move it back and forth. They changed the design of their trucks to radically increase their fuel economy. They have banned some products that were toxic even though they weren’t banned by the government. They have done porous concrete in their parking lot to help water pollution. There are lots and lots of things. I think it is very admirable and they have done some great things and I am really proud of the work I have been able to do with them. It is still not enough.

I don’t mean to foreshadow or anything, but it’s the same feeling I have about the environmental movement; I’m able to actually see this goal. I think seven or eight or almost ten years into this effort of corporate change, we see that there is a lot of great progress. There are now a lot of big companies I am helping to do it. But when we add it all together, it does not actually work to start dealing with the fact that the Washington Turtle has become extinct because of climate change. It doesn’t actually add up to enough.

Chris Martenson: That is a really important topic, and I would love to get into it. In my own work, I am trying to shift a narrative that we have. Mine happens to be more on the economic front but I do wrap in a sense of the environment both from a resource extraction standpoint. Especially around non-renewable natural resources, and also the waste streams going in. I see that as a former biologist there is something, Ludwig’s Minimum, which means that any organism can be successful up to whatever bottleneck material, or resource, that it needs. As I cast forward, I look at where we are headed in the next five, ten, fifteen, or twenty years.

If I am in a corporate position, I definitely considering the industry. I really care about the idea that there are a number of critical non-renewable natural resources that are going to be fully depleted at least in economic terms under today’s conditions. This is because we have ripped through them. I hear that there is a nibbling at the edges, increasing efficiency. This is all wonderful for this quarter, next quarter, next year. That is all wonderful.

But who is holding the big picture and thinking about the fact that silver might be completely depleted within 20 years, or iridium is going to be difficult to come by? Or any of these larger resources? I should say 7-billion-going-to-9-billion-someday collides with a defined amount of stuff that we can get out of the crust of the earth.

Adam Werbach: You are exactly on it. This is a calculation that we do – we actually know that the population will level out I think the number is probably closer to 10 billion people around the year 2100. So that is our occupancy rate. That is how many people we get to plan for on the planet. We can just say okay there is going to be 10 billion people. How do we stretch our resources to be able to make sure that everyone there has a great quality of life?

Here is the challenge, too we are watching three or four billion people on the planet right now who do not have adequate access to the resources that we enjoy. They don’t have enough heating. They don’t have enough shelter. Not enough clothing. They do not have the things that they should have and they deserve to have as every human being does. How do we radically move them up the scale of Maslow’s hierarchy of just getting their basic needs met? At the same time, we need to find a way to match this within the natural limits that we understand that will have by the year 2100.

There are a couple of interesting things. One that gets rejected by a lot of my environmental colleagues is technology. Technology is going to radically make our resources withstand, which is great. That is something we need to invest in and embrace and somewhat really understand.

The second one is, it is interesting how we live on this planet and what we need to live on this planet. What is amazing is, I mentioned the 3 or 4 billion people on the bottom of the scale those of us who actually have plenty really have poor skills on how to manage those things. So for example, this year, the American Psychological Association and the Psychiatric Association added “hoarding” to the list of psychopathy and mental diseases that actually need to be treated among the American public, because it is a rapidly growing challenge. What is interesting is that hoarding, like obesity, reverse-correlates to wealth. So the less money you have, the more of a chance you have of being a hoarder.

This only suggests that, culturally, we do not know what to do with all of these things. That once we actually get access to them and again, we have 3 or 4 more billion people who are going to be getting access to cheap goods that they will be able to afford and the credit to do them we just don’t understand how to actually manage those. We are actually finding that it is beginning to bounce off of us. like your first time at the buffet, you eat way too much. Then you understand it is going to be there. The second plate, I will eat again. That is the second piece. Understanding how to live on this earth and understanding how to live with a sense of limited resources and how to make a happy life within it.

The third is a set of rules. We do not actually have a network of rules to have, so we do not have cheaters on this planet. There is only one atmosphere. It does not matter if you are the United States or Turkey, it is the same atmosphere. There is no way to lose that CO2. We all pay for it. And a set of rules for that is something that we just need to come up with together.

Chris Martenson: It is interesting,. Just a quick aside on hoarding: I am wondering if the Psychiatric Association certainly if you have National Geographics stacked roof-to-ceiling and you are walking through corridors [between the stack], they can define that as a psychopathy. What about a person that takes $3 billion and stashes it in the Cayman Islands, way more than they can possibly ever use? Do they define that as hoarding, too, or is that different? Is that “success”?

Adam Werbach: I think that is a really good question. I think it is a delicate question that you need to ask and that we need to be asking. You know, there is a different view in Europe than there is in the United States. There are limits to wealth and ways. These are very delicate issues to talk about that we certainly are not addressing in public discourse right now.

Chris Martenson: Absolutely. The thing that really catches me at this moment in time just to put this in context, we have all seen the pictures recently coming out of Beijing of their horrible air pollution problems. China has just gone through this extraordinary industrial revolution, taking what probably took the United States 50 or 60 years, compressing that into a fifteen or twenty-year timeline. And they are paying now the same price that the United States paid back in the mid 1970s when we figured out the cost of this.

It goes back to this question of how do we go about really affecting and changing the narrative? I am using that word broadly. When we say we have to find a way to live within our means, as it were, find a way to live, inhabit this planet of the earth, it is going to require individual changes in terms of what is enough. It is going to require some broader cultural changes at the national levels and maybe even global levels, because we have only one atmosphere. What have you found to be the most effective way to change the narrative at any of those levels?

Adam Werbach: I think truthfully, we have to demonstrate that there is a better way to live. You know, it is aspirational, as opposed to confrontational or penalizing people for living the wrong lifestyle. One of the reasons I left Saatchi to launch this new retail idea called Yerdle, is to help people share things that they shouldn’t have to buy. Think about all of the radical changes in the family. Fertility in the United States hovers around two children per woman. We are heading towards less than that. Go back a hundred years and it was much, much higher. There were big families and we knew how to share things between siblings. Things got passed down from sibling to sibling to sibling. Now, with smaller families, we don’t actually have those types of networks before us that people are in. Meanwhile, we have retailers like Wal-Mart and Amazon that make everything so cheap, but it is much easier to buy something online than to borrow something. Even if that is not the best way to get it, even if it will cost you more money and that doesn’t really make sense, we just haven’t adjusted our culture to having smaller family sizes, which is something they need to do.

Think about China right now; they have gone two generations of their one-child policy. There are no aunts and uncles in China. There are no cousins in China. A whole generation without aunts and uncles. Think about how rich and important your aunts and uncles, your cousins, have been to your growing up. Have we figured out a culture without them? Without them, right now we are finding that companies are stepping in and providing those services instead of a hand-me-down, you get something new. Instead of an experience at a park, they will sell you an amusement park.

Thinking about how we actually build a more collective culture in this context is one of the great challenges that we have. I mean, think about the United States. So many of the traditions of making things that our grandparents had have been lost. We had them in the 1950s part of liberating women from the kitchen was allowing women to not have to make everything from scratch at that time. You got something like Bisquick and TV dinners that made it very easy for women not to have to cook or make things from scratch. Women and men need to learn the skills again on how to actually make things.

It is a huge growth that we are seeing in the U.S., this “maker movement” that is coming up. To go to the urban hipster enclaves of Brooklyn or the Mission District in San Francisco, you will see that makers are kind of the hot new thing. That is a cultural bloom in understanding of the type of skills we need to live in this resource-limited world. We actually need to learn how to fix things again instead of just throw them away. When I talk about cultural sustainability, learning those skills of life will allow us to survive both individually and as a community.

Chris Martenson: All right. I certainly am following along with this. Obviously, if we can use a shirt twice instead of once, we have just increased its use or reduced its footprint by 50%, right?

Adam Werbach: This is the place where I got into a bit of craziness, making shirts. I was helping suppliers and companies make shirts 5% better, 10% better, organic wool, whatever it is, but they were being thrown away after one quick use or thrown down the supply chain to be upcycled at some point as opposed to getting really circled out for the higher value for more time. One of the first things we should do is make sure that the products that we have aren’t sitting in closets or aren’t sitting in garages or aren’t sitting in cars or trucks. They are being circulated. Not everyone needs to have one of everything.

Chris Martenson: I agree. The thing that has caught me is that here is where I would love to get some clarity from you, if I could. I can identify certain actions that we can take individually. Say, at the household level, that would be money saving for ourselves personally, delivering a higher quality of life, to reduce CO2 emissions into the atmosphere would lower our use of fossil fuels giving us more time to figure out how we transition to whatever that next energy future might be, which impacts national security, and might even play into social justice in a positive way. There are all of these things we can do. One simple example might be thermal solar panels on roofs where it makes sense to do that. It touches all of those things, and yet we don’t do them typically. What are you really up against when you are trying to shift cultural use patterns such as you are trying to do with Yerdle?

Adam Werbach: I think we just collectively haven’t done it yet, so it is new. Actually, I think this is completely inevitable. Resource productivity and basically making things work better will just happen. It just does not make sense to constantly make new things from the things we have that are good. It doesn’t make us happy. It is expensive. It just hasn’t been done. I mean, the formal economy, in durable goods from toasters to bicycles to camping equipment to kids clothing to clothing, is about a trillion dollars a year in the United States a trillion dollars a year. The informal market for that is much bigger. That means every time you borrow something from your dad, or you give maternity clothes to your sister, or you give a hand-me-down to someone else, or a neighbor borrows a shovel, that happens many, many more times than if you go to a store. It is decreasing, actually, because of the separation that we feel in the communities we live in. What ends up happening is, it is easier to order something on Amazon.com than to ask a neighbor and see if they have it.

What we haven’t seen is the same type of software technology and care and marketing, frankly, to the informal economy as we have in the formal economy. So when we start having the same things, you would expect to see when you go to Amazon.com to know when it is available, to see a picture of it, to be able to get it delivered. The things that you have in your friends’ closets, I think the world is going to start choosing that just because it is easier, it makes sense, it saves money. Actually, in the end, it is more fun to see your friends than to click around online. I actually think it is inevitable. The challenge is, we don’t yet have enough people throwing themselves into it. I think that is why the dialogue we are having today is so important and what you are trying to bring about.

Things are the way they are because we made rules to make them like this. We have to change that. We change that with recycling. That has to be a step. Recycling didn’t exist 30 years ago in America. Now most people understand that you don’t throw away valuable resources. Reuse will similarly be a norm. In the same way, we spend lots of care buying things and bringing them into our home. We will understand that maintaining those things and putting them into other people’s hands will be similarly an important and well-respected pathway.

Chris Martenson: I have always thought that reduce, reuse, recycle when I grew up, they were a feel-good slogan. It seems like it is becoming an operating imperative for companies that are facing potential shortfalls and resources as they go forward, and what I hear you saying is that at the community level, at the household level, there are a number of benefits that come from also making these imperatives. It can be that people could be needing this for economic reasons, or environmentally it makes a lot of sense. Ultimately, anything that reduces our amount of resources energy being the primary components I build everything off of but other ones as well – is those become unity. Those individuals, those companies. Those nations that do it better, I think, are much more resilient, durable, and potentially with a higher level of social and community engagement than those who are not doing those activities. Is that a fair assessment?

Adam Werbach: Again, this is a trend towards that it is productivity per unit of energy. Look at the State of California. It has radically increased its productivity per unit of energy. We use the same amount of energy in water that we did 30 years ago, yet we are radically more productive in the economy. I think that is the trend that we will see. Our challenge is making it happen.

There are a couple of macro ideas in economics that are on the fringes that I think move into the center. I think one is the fact that we have a circular economy. It has been championed by Bill McDonough and Daniel MacArthur in Britain that suggests that we are moving from a make-take-waste economy making something, taking it and then throwing it away to a more circular economy where you take something, you make it into something else, and then you put it right back in the cycle. So the waste of one item becomes the feedstock for the next.

The other idea is this idea of collaborative consumption or the sharing economy where we are actually finding ways to with each other consume items together. You don’t really consume a baby stroller, but you in this case encourage the creation of a better baby stroller that I can use, and I can pass on to my sister, and she can pass onto her brother-in-law and it can keep on moving. That idea we are seeing in all sorts of different sectors. We have seen that with zip car, with car sharing, we have seen it with Airbnb with renting out your extra rooms; we don’t need to build a new hotel. We have seen that in information sharing, Wikipedia. In traffic data with Ways. We are seeing lots of places where we are collectively coming together and making our resources much, much more effective and getting more utility out of it by our collective resource sharing.

The third concept is like what Bill McDonough calls “cradle to cradle” this idea that you are thinking of a product throughout its entire lifecycle. So when you make it, you think about do I actually just sell this product ever, or actually sell this product as a service? This is with the CEO of DetailLab, which is a 40,000-person Fortune 500 company based in Minnesota. And they basically lease – they are the biggest buyer of dishwashers in the world. Most restaurants that you eat in have a DetailLab dishwasher. They lease it to the restaurant. Restaurants fail all the time. If they fail, they take it back. They rent the dishwasher as a service to the company. So instead of each company having its own dishwasher, if they go out of business or move locations, DetailLab does it. The best thing about DetailLab is they push the manufacturers to make [dishwashers] better, because it is in their interest to have a better functioning dishwasher that they don’t have to go and service every week.

Chris Martenson: Aligned interests.

Adam Werbach: Aligned interests is exactly right, Chris. That’s right.

Chris Martenson: I was at a presentation probably three and a half, four years ago, where an engineer from Ricoh they make a lot of toners, cartridges, copiers, things like that. They had a complete reduce-reuse-recycle thing, which wasn’t just a loop where they took control of the toner cartridge. They had multiple method flows and loops because they were actually very concerned. This was the first presentation I had been to where an engineer from a company tossed up a resource graph and said here is how much of the critical items we think are left in the earth. We can no longer treat them as things that we pull out, use, and then no longer track where they end up, trusting that they somehow end up in the system. They felt they had to take responsibility for the flow of materials within their sphere of their universe.

I guess what I am hearing you say is that at the individual level, we have opportunities to again, be responsible or have responsibility for these same material flows. Rather than thinking it is just a one-way trip that comes from somewhere and ends up in the dump, we have to start really thinking about how we are going to increase their utility. Really maximize their utility over time.

Adam Werbach: Again, something that we can all begin in our own lives, in our own home, is the way everyone can save a little bit of money and reduce their clutter a lot. This is a great tactic to save resources for the planet and certainly the resources in your household budget. There is no reason we shouldn’t be sharing more. That is why we set up Yerdle. It is basically just a sharing network. You just go to Yerdle and you link it up with your Facebook page. That builds up a network very quickly with your friends, and if you have something extra that you want to give away or share, from camping equipment to skis or garden equipment or kitchen gear, you can put that up. Or you can request things. I just watched a mom get a whole bunch of size two winter gear for her baby because they are going on a skiing trip. Really simple stuff.

Like I said, it isn’t rocket science; it is stuff that we have always done, but we haven’t culturally moved to a point where we do this regularly now because it is so easy to waste.

Chris Martenson: Interesting. So would these be things that people are willing to part with, or is there some expectation that they will be returned? Is this both a loan library, as it were, and a giveaway center? Or is it one or the other?

Adam Werbach: You can set it up as both. You can give or loan. I just loaned a camping carrier from the top of my car that I use one week a year. It is great to have it being put to use. Ninety percent of the things up on the site are free. So when people log in – where we first launched was San Francisco, and the average person that logs in finds 303 things open to them. Just items that are put up and are done with. They want someone else to have. They don’t just want to give to Salvation Army or throw them away. They actually think they have value and they would like a friend to have them. We all have those special meaningful things that are hard to part with and those tend to clutter our lives. It feels so good to put something like that into a friend’s home if they are moving to a new apartment or moving to a new home. It is a great way to connect with people as well.

Chris Martenson: Fantastic. What other services or capabilities are offered in Yerdle?

Adam Werbach: The most important thing is to just build that sharing circle for yourself. You come online at Yerdle.com, you link up with your friends, and then you post a few things they might be interested in or you ask what they might be looking for. Right now we are a very young network. We are looking for people to pollinate or to basically spread the pollen around in their own community and help to grow it.

The other things that we have seen that are super interesting is that this connection to a wide variety of efforts that are happening across the world. One of the things that we were really inspired by was this savings circle movement that is based in Mumbai, one of the largest cities in the world; it is where they filmed Slumdog Millionaire. There are thousands and thousands of local savings circles where they don’t have access to banks. Twenty women get together and they share items back and forth between themselves in groups of 20 people. They save money every day. They survey themselves, and they commit to spreading the word about this simple idea. To date there are tens of millions of women across the world, mostly in slums in Kenya and Mexico City and South Africa and Brazil, who have formed these savings circles and are basically using their neighbors to solve their needs. They find it is a really rapid way of developing equity in themselves as well as building sound relationships.

What we are doing with Yerdle is part of a larger cultural movement to find out how we can link ourselves together in a world that pulls us all apart. We find reasons to trust each other and how we can find reasons to stay connected. It is all good to have a neighborhood association. It is all good to have the [YMCA]. What we say is, this is a way you can both save money and have the things that you need. It is a very practical way to connect with people. And also be able to have experiences that you may never have been able to afford. There are some people who just got kite surfing gear on Yerdle. It turned out they wanted to go kite surfing. You need a training kite. You only need a training kite the first few times, and then you are set. So people put up their training kits and say hey why doesn’t somebody else try these on and it get a lot more people into the sport. There are all kinds of different things. You can imagine the hobbies that you have, like you can pass those hobbies on to your friends or to their kids. It is a great way to pass that kind of information around to people as well.

Chris Martenson: It all sounds absolutely wonderful. I know a lot of our listeners are going to be interested in this. We do have a very strong desire within our community to figure out how to increase those community connections. As you say, we have a culture that is turning towards isolation. There are things we can do and probably should do to start reversing that. It sounds like a great way to begin to connect up electronically. I am sure there is a great need for that. I know there is interest. So I’m really looking forward to pushing that.

I have a surprise question for you here which is – for people who are listening – Adam has the distinction of having gone to college with our own Adam Taggart, my business partner and co-founder of Peak Prosperity.com. I hear from him that you do a mean cover of Centerfold by the J. Giles Band. So do you get to utilize that hidden talent much on the sustainability circuit?

Adam Werbach: Yea. I was in an a cappella group in college called the Brown Derbies. We were able to tour the world singing songs. Best thing that taught me was – after I graduated, we went to Japan and were wedding singers for the summer, which was definitely demeaning work.

Chris Martenson: What a learning experience, though.

Adam Werbach: Yes.

Chris Martenson: Adam, thank you so much. I am really excited to have talked to you and also get your thoughts on where we are really headed. I love hearing that there is a groundswell of new movements going forward, where we can at once tackle the major issues that we are reading about and experiencing on a daily basis and do it in a positive way. Save money. Increase community connections. I really support all of those basic trends. I think that is fantastic. Thank you for the work that you are doing.

Adam Werbach: Thanks for the community you are building. This is how we are going to do it – piece by piece.

Chris Martenson: Indeed. Thank you so much for your time.

Adam Werbach: Thanks, Chris.

About the guest

Adam Werbach

Adam Werbach is the Founder of Saatchi & Saatchi S. He’s the author of Strategy for Sustainability, published by Harvard Business Press.

At Saatchi & Saatchi, Adam guides global sustainability work from wind turbines to hybrid cars. A lifelong activist, at age 23 Adam was elected the youngest-ever President of the Sierra Club, the oldest and largest environmental organization in the United States. He has worked with many of the world’s largest companies, including his controversial work to help Walmart launch its sustainability efforts.

Twice elected to the International Board of Greenpeace, Adam is a frequent commentator on sustainable business, appearing on networks including BBC, NPR, and CNN, and shows ranging from The O’Reilly Factor to Charlie Rose. In 2012, Adam launched yerdle, an online sharing platform — yet another step on his constant journey toward projects that might tip the scales towards humanity’s survival.

Related content

16 Comments

Casey's picture
Casey
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 2 2009
Posts: 27
Leading the Great Transition

Thanks for an engaging conversation Adam and Chris.  Your decisions and your lives are testimony to an awakening conscious, in many senses of that word.

Here in Maryland, we're proud to be the first state to pass Benefit Corporation legislation and to be the home of the first Benefit Corporations in the country.  We are also the home of the only state supported Genuine Progress Indicator system that looks at 26 social, environmental, and economic variables as a true measure of quality of life.  Maryland also has a moratorium on fracking contingent upon thorough study and refuses to join the many states rushing headlong into very questionable energy practices.  These are just a couple of significant policy changes as a result of politics on the ground and voting in the General Assembly.  As you note, an important part of making change, but painfully slow at even the state level.

Which leads back to your comments on community activism, organization, and relationships - that which will effect most aspects of living from consuming, to creating, to conserving, to food, clothing, shelter, transportation and communication, and even local capitalization, finance and investment.  And, small business is an integral part of all that, but, of course, requires  different  focus and intervention that does working with the big guys, e.g., WalMart - God Love You for those efforts and impact.

Prodviding goods and services in an energy and environmentally efficient manner to innovations in helping people make wiser decisions, small business can have nimble, quick effects that will hopefully spiral outward.  For instance, check a company at the Bethesda Green Incubator,  www.Savenialabs.com  to see a great example of an individual  having an impact.  Now to business for John Jabara = captialization and scale.

Well, got to run to pick up corn at the only municipal corn silo in the U.S.! About 80 families here in the city have joined to create a corn co-op to use with pellet stoves for heat! Clean and cheap.

Hope springs eternal .  .  .

Thanks again for this site and these conversations.

c.

westcoastjan's picture
westcoastjan
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 4 2012
Posts: 465
Good stuff!

Great article and another link to a budding movement that will work well in helping address the challenges we all face.

One of the takeaways for me from this podcast was in the beginning when Adam spoke of his early involvement. He said "I think from a very early age I got a sense that you could actually do something even if you were very young. You could be effective."

All too often we tend not to take actions because of the old feedback loops which are so ingrained. They tell us we are just an individual and nothing we do will ever have an impact. As long as we buy into these old beliefs, nothing ever will change. This is a wonderful example to use as inspiration the next time we encounter the old "it's hopeless" feedback loop.

Thanks for the great podcast/transcript.

Jan

RJE's picture
RJE
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 31 2008
Posts: 1369
This was a truly cool Podcast and Man did it ever...

...take on several truly terrific visuals. Imagine, working with a receptive Walmart and other very dominant businesses, and they be pro-active to change without having to wait on government to finally make the changes necessary. I love that concept, and not being a big fan of Walmart and their practices towards labor I had to give them their props for doing what they are doing. Leadership is always important and they are leaders in a very important chain of events that must be done to manage our Planet as we Must do.

Next, the sharing of things with others is another very important concept lost to neighborhoods over the years. It used to be that the next bike, the Stingray!, came onto the market, bought by a parent in the neighborhood for their sons or daughter, and it was shared by all the kids in the neighborhood as that was just normal (well, the kid who owned the bike had a couple days to feel it was theirs then it was ours, to share. LOL). It used to be that if a bike wasn't in use, and was laying on the ground (yours or not) then you just road it. Gave it back when the kid who owned it wanted it back. If they never came for their bike then you took it back to their house and put it in the backyard. Now, not so much as every kid has the same bike. The old ones today are never used through their natural life cycles, as changes are made which makes the now two year old bike an embarrassment for the kids to even ride so Mom and Pops buys the new bike, and amazingly no one is available to even give the old bike away for free so gets dumped in the land fill.

I wore hand me downs with pride, as though they were new when given to me. We had new cloths, for school and church but they needed to last the year as well as one pair of shoes that were cleaned, polished and care for so they lasted that calendar year. If shoe leather worn out on the soles then they were re-soled at the shoe store. I was a bigger kid and my brother played ball so had nicer cloths. I couldn't wait for when he came home after the season ended. I remember back in 9th or 10th grade, early 70's, my brother came home with a stars and stripes silk shirt, wide collar and truly fashionable, and it was mine! Good stuff.

This was a cool Podcast, and lately, they have all been. Nice Chris, and I can only imagine seeing this Adam dude singing wedding songs to a Japanese audience! That is funny. I know while in Japan myself for 8 months and seeing the Japanese trying to sing American songs to us soldiers how entertaining that certainly was. Too funny. A really funny visual actually.

Incidentally, I will wear out every t-shirt, pants, just everything until that last wash when the item is finally destroy as a useful item. It starts out as dress, gets downgraded to casual, then downgraded to yard work, then messy jobs like oil changes and painting the house, Then it becomes a rag for cleaning surfaces like the lawn mower or cleaning up spills in the garage and elsewhere. Some things are just embedded in your life and using things up has been one of those things drilled into me from a young age.

You talked of turtles Chris and how they are not as common anymore. These last two summers I have seen the opposite for me and frogs. I have always stopped and moved the frogs, are conscious of them when I weed whip or cut and these last couple, few years I have them all over the place. So, I am happy every time I see one. I think with a little effort we all could enjoy these renaissance. One frog in particular I named Fred, and my grandsons look for him when they come over as he lives in a little pond that enjoys a fountain in my front yard garden. I named him as a learning tool for the kids, and how we can be responsible and enjoy what this earth gives us. They even get an allowance for recycling the paper and plastic that appears throughout the neighborhood as we go on our adventures, down the street for a walk, and have flown into our yard after garbage pick up.

It was the crying Indian in a commercial back in the early 70's that did it for me, and I hope I have been a good example since.

Nice

BOB

Oliveoilguy's picture
Oliveoilguy
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 29 2012
Posts: 348
Yerdle

Yerdle seems to be a substitute for what the family used to be. Extended families share things, hand things down, repair and  recycle things. Our church has some similar functionality to Yerdle. Also I see potential within Peak Prosperity to have a "sharing network". Selfishly, I have a greater desire to share within a smaller community that I understand and promotes my values.

westcoastjan's picture
westcoastjan
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 4 2012
Posts: 465
agreed re sharing within one's own community

I agree with you Oliveoilguy. I found the article great up to the point where the Facebook connection was mentioned. I don't do Facebook for privacy/security reasons. If I have to use FB to access a service like Yerdle, then I guess I won't be accessing it.

Not to be a party pooper or want to rain on their parade, but Yerdle sounds like it is dependent upon a fully functioning internet as well as computer access. What if access to these tools are diminished or restricted? We may very well face blackouts/brownouts/cyberattacks and so on, all of which will impact access to onine services. Can this be a downside to what appears to be a good service that just might get the sheeple thinking in different terms? Is this not going against the grain of the idea of simplifying our lives? Just asking.

Jan

Adam Taggart's picture
Adam Taggart
Status: Peak Prosperity Co-founder (Offline)
Joined: May 26 2009
Posts: 1791
Peak Prosperity Groups

Oliveoilguy -

Just wanted to make sure it's clear that Peak Prosperity's Groups can easily be used to manage a sharing circle of the kind Adam talked about.

Join (or create) a group in your local area. Tell the folks you want to share with about it and ask them to join. Start a thread (or two) to post items you're looking for or would like to share.

Adam and I have briefly discussed the idea that there may be ways for Yerdle and Peak Prosperity to leverage each others' platforms and communities. We haven't been able to explore in depth yet, but if/when we do, I'll provide an update on the site about our conclusions.

gillbilly's picture
gillbilly
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 22 2012
Posts: 375
Turtles and Walmart

They're not all gone thank goodness! We have a snapping turtle that has been coming up from the river and burying herself in the stream bed above our house every winter for the past 20 years. It will be a sad if and when she stops. I would like to think that turtles are just getting smarter about crossing roads, I mean they have been around for millions of years, but I also know this is probably wishful thinking. Enjoyed the podcast, but I also can't help thinking about how Walmart got to be so big and at who's expense, and now being that big and flush with cash, how it must be easier for them to make the change to "sustainability." There is also a lot of PR and marketing that underlies this sustainablility. Sorry, I know I sound cynical, but keeping Walmart's profits sustainable is not my top priority. As all these big corporations go "green," I am glad Adam pointed out that it's not enough.

Thank You

Woodman's picture
Woodman
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 26 2008
Posts: 1025
Sharing stuff

We share a lot of kids stuff like toys and clothes in my workplace, where there is a big enough community of diverse ages such that someone's kid always outgrowing something that a younger child needs in turn.    I  can see internet services like Yerdle as good tools to extend that community and promote more sharing of existing resources.  In the old days before internet we used publications like the classifieds or Uncle Henry's.  Or remember all the postings on bulleton boards in college student unions?  That's how I got my first car .  I really hate throwing anything anway tht might be useful, and try to pass it on even if takes a little effort on my part.  

Denny Johnson's picture
Denny Johnson
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 13 2008
Posts: 324
"Yerdle makes it simple"

mmmm......... Can dinosaurs who do not wish to succomb to facebook or twitter access it?

Arthur Robey's picture
Arthur Robey
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 4 2010
Posts: 2302
Excellent talk.

Excellent talk. Thoughts run around my mind like hyperactive mice.

Toy Libraries have been in Australia for many years.

The Climate Catastrophe Bites. Queensland has been hit so hard and so often that now housing insurance is too expensive to buy.

Electrolytic zinc in Hobart dumped Cadmium into the Derwent River. They fought for years against the environmental movement. The environmentalists won, forcing the company to remove the cadmium from the waste stream. And Hey Presto, they had a very profitable side line. Some managers are begging to be fired.

=======================================================================

It is important to realize the enormous power of the space-colonization technique. If we begin to use it soon enough, and if we employ it wisely, at least five of the most serious problems now facing the world can be solved without recourse to repression: bringing every human being up to a living standard now enjoyed only by the most fortunate; protecting the biosphere from damage caused by transportation and industrial pollution; finding high quality living space for a world population that is doubling every 35 years; finding clean, practical energy sources; preventing overload of Earth's heat balance.

Gerard K. O'Neill, "The Colonization of Space"[26]

It will happen and here is how I think that it will unfold.

The nation states will disintegrate due to their ineptitude.

Global communications will first start in a sterile yelling match about who caused the environmental crisis and when the protagonists get bored minds will turn to how to co-operate to solve the common problem. And a Global government will spontaneously emerge.

The combined pool of wealth of the Government and advances in technology will be sufficient to embark on O’Neil’s vision. Enlightened self interest will not do it, we are just too stupid. But when our backs are against the wall an element of lucidity prevails. We see the light!!

==================================================================

I see that I got mentioned in dispatches. Thanks Ruby.

Amanda Witman's picture
Amanda Witman
Status: Peak Prosperity Team (Offline)
Joined: Mar 17 2008
Posts: 409
I started a Sharing Circle group

For anyone who is interested in joining, the group is here:  http://www.peakprosperity.com/group/sharing-circle.  Group membership requires approval to prevent spammers, but I intend for the group to be strongly inclusive.

This group is meant for the general PP community; if anyone would prefer to start a more local sharing circle just for their area, that would also be welcome.

If anyone has concerns about the parameters of the Sharing Circle group, please contact me privately and I'd be happy to discuss my reasoning.  I have 15 years' experience with online swap lists and I'm so glad to see an interest in having one here at PP. 

Thanks, and I hope to see some new members joining soon.

- Amanda

Adam Taggart wrote:

Oliveoilguy -

Just wanted to make sure it's clear that Peak Prosperity's Groups can easily be used to manage a sharing circle of the kind Adam talked about.

Join (or create) a group in your local area. Tell the folks you want to share with about it and ask them to join. Start a thread (or two) to post items you're looking for or would like to share.

Adam and I have briefly discussed the idea that there may be ways for Yerdle and Peak Prosperity to leverage each others' platforms and communities. We haven't been able to explore in depth yet, but if/when we do, I'll provide an update on the site about our conclusions.

charleshughsmith's picture
charleshughsmith
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 15 2010
Posts: 224
mind-expanding discussion

Excellent podcast and discussion here. I just wanted to add that this model of sharing/re-using/repairing existing goods can also offer a low-cost localized business opportunity for those who facilitate it.  For example, I've read reports of co-op repair shops where people can bring in their broken appliances etc. and use the tools for a small fee.  Those who need help can pay a modest fee for the repair.  The workshop becomes a place to share repair tips, tools, swap parts, get help, pass on useful items, etc., and the small fees help support those most deeply involved in keeping it going.

Though we put thousands of miles on our bicycles,  I am a lousy bike mechanic beyond very basic stuff. I take my bikes to just this sort of co-op. There are repair stands and tools available for your own repair work, and also a few mechanics to do repairs that are beyond your skill level/interest.  People donate old bikes to the co-op which get recycled and sold for a modest rpice to help support the co-op. It really is an "everybody wins" model because it is opt-in and voluntary and the low fees are enough to keep it operating and distribute a bit of money to those who keep it functioning.

westcoastjan's picture
westcoastjan
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 4 2012
Posts: 465
Curbside recycling system

Here in Victoria when you don't want something anymore, but it is still useful, all you need to do it put it out by the curb. People passing by will take it if they want it. It is amazing how fast things disappear sometimes!!! I have obtained more than a few things myself this way, in addition to putting things out there for others. It is a great system for those who do not have transportation to take things to recycling shops or centres.

The only downside are the morons who put out sofas and mattresses and leave them out in rainy weather, inevitably ruining them. After neighbors are stuck looking at the eyesores for a few weeks the city finally swings by and hauls it away. Perhaps this is the moron's goal... as always, a few bad apples spoil an otherwise good system.

Jan

gillbilly's picture
gillbilly
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 22 2012
Posts: 375
Sustainability, Walmart, NPR

Coincidently, I just happened to catch this NPR segment a few hours ago on sustainable-labeled food. It mentions Walmart and their role in the market of MSC labeled fish. The segment describes some of the complexity around the issue:

http://www.npr.org/2013/02/11/171376509/is-sustainable-labeled-seafood-r...

Love the local community sharing ideas!

Oliveoilguy's picture
Oliveoilguy
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 29 2012
Posts: 348
Sharing Circle

Amanda Witman wrote:

For anyone who is interested in joining, the group is here:  http://www.peakprosperity.com/group/sharing-circle.  Group membership requires approval to prevent spammers, but I intend for the group to be strongly inclusive.

Thanks Amanda. I'll check it out

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 13 2009
Posts: 1459
three examples of informal markets

(1) In NYC, I saw residents and businesses put larger used items in the lobby (low-end buildings) or near the trash dumpster or chute (high-end buildings), hoping things with some use left in them would be picked up by those who needed them. It was a very good system. I got and gave a few things from my construction site offices that way: slot files, a director's chair, baskets. 

(2) Here in SC, we are in the Land of Thrift Stores. I can with no effort, count ten thrift stores I pass every week, not counting four large Goodwill locations. In my opinion, anyone who does not look to thrift stores for thngs like play clothes for fast-growing children and home decor/furnishings is missing out on an inexpensve treat. Example: I got my office fax machine at a nearby thrift store for $2. And I keep gving them my excess books, nicknacks and linens.

(3) Craigslist has a "Free" section where I found a home entertainment center, which I use for storage. They also have used items for sale, cheap. I got a nice console/entry table with a beveled glass top--and oak inlay--for $50 when a Lasik surgeon remodelled his waiting rom and put it on Craigslist. I've given away furnture and lighting fixtures there.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Login or Register to post comments