Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Zipcar Confessions

I am one week into my Zipcar experience and for a car-dependent yet socially aware individual trying to be more green, it has been a dream come true. I first heard about Zipcar from a friend who wanted to test drive a prius, not necessarily to become more green but to obtain the clean air sticker to drive in the carpool lane for his commute between San Francisco and San Jose. (sidebar: they have actually run out of the clean air stickers, but the prius is still in demand - check it out here.)

I pride myself on being an early adopter and couldn't wait to jump on the zipcar bandwagon. For those who know me, I am somewhat dependent on my car. Whether it is the freedom that it provides or the fear of public transportation, I am not sure, but I have tried my best to embrace my car-less urban lifestyle. Again, it has only been a week and in that time my parents came to visit me and actually ended up renting a car (which they got upgraded to a Cadillac) so in reality, I can claim no carbon offset, but my combo of zipcar and public transportation has been surprisingly quite manageable.

As far as the actual Zipcar experience, it was so convenient I was amazed. I am all about the user experience and from the reservation process to getting the gas (which they pay for via your annual membership fee) the zipcar folks have thought of every possible step and made the experience fun and easy. I was even able to extend my reservation by 30 minutes at the last minute. There were a few moments as I was singing in the car that I thought maybe someone was watching me and got a bit self conscious, but for the most part you couldn't help but feel like a green hipster (and trust me, I'm not:-). From the amazing key feature where you simply place your zipcard on the windshield to unlock the door to the few remnant reminders like the pair of men's running shoes in the back that were left from a previous zipster, I couldn't help but feel part of a unique collective community all in the name of green. Evidently, 40% of zipsters either sell their car or stop a purchasing decision of a car because of Zipcar. I don't know if I am there yet, but it may not be too far off (if zipcar makes it to austin:-) Today, I dropped off my Honda fit (which is the cutest car ever!), grabbed my Sigg water bottle, and my Whole Foods reusable shopping bag and headed up the hill to my apartment. I realized that while I may appear just a stereotypical LOHAS consumer, I felt a small sense of pride of embracing the innovations that represent the green values that I so much believe in. And if nothing else, my fear of public transportation has been conquered!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Get Your Vitamins From A T-Shirt!

Lululemon Athletica is all the rage in the world of pilates and yoga gear. I challenge anyone to go into a class and not see at least 50% of the students in the sporty yet flattering gear. I was recently getting my Lululemon fix and bought what would appear as just a t-shirt, but this innovative piece of cloth has far more to offer. The BBB Sheer VNeck is an everyday super light t-shirt to wear to the gym and is made with vitasea technology consisting of seaweed which releases marine amino acids, minderals, and vitamins into the skin upon contact with moisture. In addition, the fabric provides anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, stress reducing, hydrating and detoxifying features

Is this for real or just a marketing gimmick? Well, I bought the shirt. Granted, I am an idealist and health advocate to the core (or perhaps just a naive consumer:-) but it is innovative products like these that truly are promoting the core green values of health and sustainability and cradle to cradle design. Gotta go get my sweat/glow on!

Monday, July 2, 2007

New York Times Article Sparks Green Controversy

The New York Times came out with an article highlighting the trend to green consumerism. It is a highly charged article representing the full array of voices that are influencing this movement.

When I first read the article, I became a bit defensive on the attack of eco-consumption. But after re-reading it, I got the bigger picture. Terms like greenwashing and light greens are being thrown around in an accusatory manner to those businesses and individuals taking only superficial attempts to go green. Yes, at the end of the day it is about creating macro-level change at the civic and government level, and for those green loyalists who have made this their life’s work, I would be frustrated by the sudden hipness hype of being green. IMHO, we are merely at a tipping point in the world of green. An increased awareness exists and people are finding their sea legs as to which approach makes sense for them. Maybe it is all a fa├žade of PR, but whether driven by fear or genuine compassion, it is still change that is being created. As stated in the article:

John Passacantando, the executive director of Greenpeace USA, argued that green consumerism has been a way for Wal-Mart shoppers to get over the old stereotypes of environmentalists as “tree-hugging hippies” and contribute in their own way.

I respect and appreciate both the keen critical eye of the traditional environmental voice but also the budding entrepreneurial perspective of those mavens pushing the green envelope and bringing the vision of conscious consumerism to a wider audience. But at the end of the day, it is about reduced consumption. Alex Steffan of Worldchanging had a good perspective from the article:

The genuine solution, he and other critics say, is to significantly reduce one’s consumption of goods and resources. It’s not enough to build a vacation home of recycled lumber; the real way to reduce one’s carbon footprint is to only own one home.

I often find myself in debates with others as to whether this recent green hype is just a trend and in my mind the answer is clear – why does it matter? This is not like the latest gadget that is being launched and we are in a “wait and see” mode to judge the efficacy of it and whether to buy it. Why can’t we begin taking steps and working with this heightened awareness to see for ourselves because at the end of the day is about our personal and environmental health. It is about creating a sustainable future. Yes it is about reduction, but fortunate or not, some people will only make changes when forced to. Whether it is about buying a Prius to be able to drive in the HOV/carpool lane or living a no-impact lifestyle, the result is the same, less impact. Perhaps they are not measurable equivalents of reduction, but it is step in the right direction just coming from different perspectives and needs.

When I was a pilates teacher, I was pretty consistent about telling people to inhale and exhale on each movement. One of the most common comments I received at the end of most sessions (as they basked in a relaxed state) was “thank you for telling me to breath.” After saying the comment, most people realized the absurdity of the statement, but what they were thanking me for was that I simply reminded them of something they do unconsciously billions of times each day and with just a little of awareness they could literally feel better.

That is how I like to look at this recent swirl of green. Whether it is the die-hard environmentalists, the influencers of the green blogosphere, or even the eco-innovaters of conscious consumerism, these are all various voices that are raising an awareness that we are all capabable of. My advice, everyone take a deep breath, and take a green step of your own and I bet once you do, you will find yourself hooked on empowerment and shopping at your locals farmers market before you know it. Ok, off to pick up my zipcar