Monday, September 14, 2009

The Lazy Environmentalist

Last Friday Notre Dame held an event with Josh Dorfman, host of the T.V. show the Lazy Environmentalist. Check out the website for some really interesting ways to go green.

In Josh's words, "This might all sound like semantics but it’s hugely important. Unless the environmental movement examines its communication strategies, it will never attract the type of widespread acceptance necessary to be effective on the scale required to solve the enormous environmental challenges we face. Moral imperative environmentalism is whiny. Carbon counting environmentalism is obscure. And Polar Bear saving environmentalism is trite. It’s all too niche. It holds no sway over the great majority of Americans who (despite the media hype and market research reports) are not yet living green in any meaningful way.

It’s time to recognize that there is an overwhelming opportunity to frame green choices in terms of personal self-interest. The new green value proposition should be: it’s better for you AND for the planet."

The Lazy Environmentalist as a concept and a television show is a creative and fresh take on the green movement. Josh Dorfman sees the American public as consumers that will always prioritize convenience and cost over the environment when making cost and benefit decisions. The idea behind his show is to prove that going green can save money, be in style, and protect the environment at the same time.

His presentation was a slideshow where he went through and showed examples of a lot of different products. For each product he connected it to a larger trend in the market and he explained how an idea similar to what was being displayed could be expanded in the marketplace. He was very optimistic about the potential of the Internet to revolutionize consumerism around the world. He emphasized that sharing of products is the most effective way to be green and save money. He showed quite a few concepts that have grown quickly in the last couple of years including Zip Car. Zip Car is a rent-a-car service designed for frequent and short urban area usage. A customer reserves a car online that is parked nearby, walks to the parking place, scans in with their card or using an iPhone and they can get in the car and drive. The company claims that every zip car replaces seven purchased vehicles. The idea of renting and not purchasing was also shown in a website that allows people to rent designer handbags and luxury goods for events which is much more logical and environmental than purchasing an expensive product that will get limited use.

Dorfman also showed off the concept of the Internet being used as a means to connect people to each other to exchange goods and services. One website,, uses Facebook friend networks to help set up carpools, because no one wants to hop in the car of a random online stranger. Yet, if that stranger was a friend of a friend then he or she is likely to be trusted and by carpooling together they can both save energy and money. There were multiple websites discussed that are exchanges for people to trade goods such as designer clothing or video games. These websites allow people to get goods that are new to them by exchanging items they will no longer use. Utilizing goods that are already in the marketplace instead of manufacturing new goods every time someone wants a product is a green idea that does not require a change in our culture of consumerism, but adapts to the culture to make the habit more efficient.

One of the most promising themes of the presentation was the ingenuity of the rapidly growing environmental consumer movement. A bathroom in Dorfman’s world exemplifies the enormous potential for consumers to make innovative and cost saving environmental choices. The bathroom includes a low flow shower head that conserves water and heat energy, a sink that drains water into a reservoir used to flush the toilet, and a skylight in the ceiling that replaces a light during the day that comes from a pipe full of mirrors that catches the sun on the outside of the house.

Dorfman believes that in the next ten to twenty years there will be an enormous expansion of goods and services that do not force a person to choose environmentally friendly or lower cost. While he did not say the market could solve the problems of global warming and the chronic overuse of energy and resources, he is justifiably optimistic about technology and awareness continuing to expand environmentalism even to the most lazy and selfish consumers.

The event was very worthwhile. Dorfman even came out and met with Henry and I afterwards to discuss a couple of ideas more specifically. The environmental consumer movement will require a large spectrum of ideas and approaches. Dorfman’s perspective of lazy environmentalism is an important part of the future of green products and services.

His website is full of products but signing up for his e-mail list is the best way to get information about ideas and products. I have signed up for many e-mail lists and ended up unsubscribing. This one is really worth your time.

Take part in Notre Dame's Energy Week! I was really impressed today with the displays and people on South Quad. More good stuff to come...

Also a personal favorite environmental product of mine, Simple Shoes, check them out!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting stuff about Energy week!

yay environmentalism!

Anonymous said...

He has great ideas, I'm subscribing right now! :)

Andrea Watts said...

great post chris... I will have to check this guy out!

ShamRockNRoll said...

I'm so buying a pair of those shoes! haha

Chris Rhodenbaugh said...

sweet! Just got another pair of their sandals. On sale for 8$ with free shipping.