I’m intrigued by Yahoo!’s Make-It-Green site. The idea is this: submit your best eco-friendly idea for the chance to win $2,500 and an opportunity to see your idea turned into a product available at a retailer near you. Viewers can vote for their favorite ideas, but the final winner will be picked by Edison Nation, a company that helps independent inventors bring their products to market.
Neat idea. It’s brings social networking and DIY culture together, then gives it an entrepreneurial twist.
I can’t help thinking about Make-It-Green in terms of The Natural Step training I attended last week—I’m starting to think about it with everything I do. Natural Step sets forth four principles for a sustainable society:
1. Eliminate our contribution to the progressive buildup of substances extracted from the Earth’s crust
2. Eliminate our contribution to the progressive buildup of chemicals and compounds produced by society
3. Eliminate our contribution to the progressive physical degradation and destruction of nature and natural processes
4. Eliminate our contribution to conditions that undermine people’s capacity to meet their basic human needs
I know. Pretty serious-sounding stuff. I am still trying to grok it myself.
Basically, what it means is that in doing what we do every day, are we taking too much stuff out of the earth? Are we putting natural substances together in toxic ways? Are we changing the natural formation of our planet in harmful ways? Are we making life harder for other people?
In my own life, I can look at small actions through the lens of these principles and see room for improvement. Let’s take making a cup of coffee.
On the surface, it doesn’t seem like coffee has anything to do with extracting materials from the earth’s crust. Then again, an awful lot of fossil fuels get used in fertilizers and pesticides, not to mention transporting coffee beans across the planet to my neighborhood grocery store. That’s just principle number one! When you consider principles two through four—the impact of farming coffee on the habitat, the people who grow and harvest the beans, the plastics and other synthetic compounds used to package the coffee, the water I use to brew my java, to my choice of drinking vessel—I start to see a whole lot more than just a tasty cup of joe. It’s a tangled net of choices.
Here’s where I get back to Yahoo!, or any company that is trying to make it green. The challenge is to not just to be less bad by being more green, but move toward sustainability by working to untangle the net, and make good choices at every knot.
I see an opportunity for Yahoo! and their partner Edison Network. Can they ensure the winning product is brought to market by manufacturers, distributors and retailers who will do it in a sustainable way? Can they truly make it green?