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THE LAZY ENVIRONMENTALIST: Lazy Makeup Artist and Lazy Exterminator

Josh Dorfman during the filming of “The Lazy Makeup Artist.”

THE LAZY ENVIRONMENTALIST airs Tuesdays at 8PM E/P.

Often we forget that as human beings we are still mammals. We too are part of the environment. The environment is not just something that exists “out there” where the trees grow, the snow falls or the rivers run. We are nature as much as a tree or flower is nature. So naturally, how we treat ourselves has implications for the health of the planet.

I realize this is can be a major leap in logic for a lot of people. We’re not used to thinking of ourselves in this way. But just as we are concerned about the rising mercury levels in fish populations around the world, so too would be wise to be very concerned about the rising mercury levels – and levels of other toxins – in our own bodies. It’s both an environmental challenge and clearly a health challenge.

On this week’s show I take on an exterminator and a make-up artist. The issue with the former is spreading poisons around our house. The issue with that latter is spreading poisons all over our face. So while these are very much environmental challenges, the best way from my experience that I’ve found to get people to gravitate toward green choices in these areas is to play up the health implications.

I started thinking about the power of health to convince people to go green while talking to audiences around the country as a green speaker and even more so while running my modern design, green furniture company, Vivavi. At Vivavi, we tend to focus on two elements that to me constitute the essence of green product design: 1) eco-friendly materials like recycled steel, FSC certified sustainable wood and bamboo and 2) non-toxic materials for things like glues, paints, finishes, and particle board.

From a green product perspective, I’m significantly less concerned with the biodegradability of a product since for something to truly biodegrade it requires the person who is disposing of it to ensure that the product goes into a composter. Products don’t biodegrade in a landfill. There isn’t enough oxygen or the right kind of microorganisms for the process to occur. So biodegradability sounds lovely, but in most cases it’s not really a green attribute because it does not correspond with consumer behavior.

I’m also typically less concerned with how far a product has traveled when weighing its green attributes. We live in a global economy. That’s not going to change anytime soon. I prefer products to be made locally because I personally like to support my local economy, and I like that it usually means that those products have a lower carbon footprint. However, I also feel that we will achieve sustainability when the global economy is functioning in greater balance with nature. That goes for factories in China as much as for factories in Hickory, North Carolina. So if products that are being made of eco-friendly and non-toxic materials are coming from overseas, I still get very exited about seeing them store shelves.

Now with all this said, I’ve often found that when trying to sell our green furniture to customers, the best way to influence their decision aside from offering products with the right the design, functionality and price is to talk about the health benefits for them and their families. Customers often consider the health benefits of removing toxins from their furniture and, therefore, their homes as being directly in their self-interest. On the other hand, it’s much more difficult for customers to feel a direct connection to the benefits of, say, conserving rainforests thousands of miles away in Indonesia. They certainly might care but not on the same visceral level as choosing an option that’s healthier for them and their families.

I don’t view this situation as something to bemoan. I just view it as something to understand. What’s so important to realize is that often the best way to convince others to go green is to take our environmental values and throw them out the window. Very few people care about why we care about the planet. They mostly care about why they should care about the planet. When we give them good enough reasons that appeal to their self-interest, they’re usually much more likely to get on board with change. If that means talking about creating a healthy home more so than maintaining a healthy forest, then that, in my opinion, is the way to go.

I apply this approach with the exterminator and the make-up artist with mixed degrees of success. Getting people to go green is a complex process. While it can be unbelievably frustrating, I believe it’s critical to figure out the strategies and tactics that are most effective. To me, the process is also endlessly fascinating.

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