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Celebrate Where We Are

12/8/2005 12:00:00 AM

Tags: renewable energy

Yesterday I had coffee with Kirk Adkisson, a pastor who’s starting a progressive Presbyterian church here in Boulder. (In the continual erosion of my judgments and stereotypes, I got to learn this week that “progressive Presbyterian” is not necessarily the oxymoron I had assumed it to be!)

Kirk contacted me after he read my last blog entry, and we sat down together to turn an electronic connection into a human one. We talked about the natural symmetry between environmentalists and people of faith who take seriously the Bible’s admonition to be stewards. We questioned how the extreme right seems to have co-opted Christianity just as the extreme left has co-opted the environmental movement and how most of us are somewhere in the middle. We found lots of common ground.

In telling me about how he talks to people about his faith, Kirk said something that exactly captured my modus operandi with Natural Home & Garden (and my own proselytizing about caring for the planet). “You have to meet people where they are,” he said. So simple. So true.

This has definitely hit home for me in watching the reactions of the hard-core environmentalists to big corporations’ recent flirtations with “our side.” When BP announced recently that it would double its green investment, putting up to $8 billion into renewable energy, most environmentalists griped that it wasn’t enough.

This week I also received a perplexed letter from a reader in response to my last blog entry about Walmart’s attempts to go green. “As I read the good news about the greening of Walmart to a fellow conventioneer at the Natural Foods Expo, he said that for a manufacturer to sell products to Walmart, they have to open a factory in China and use child labor! True?” she wrote. Of course, that exaggeration is based on some truth. But for my part, I’m perplexed as to why so many critics insist on basing their judgments on the past rather than applauding moves in the right direction—and by doing so, generating even more good works.

I guess I risk looking like a naïve Pollyanna, but from my perch, the news all around looks good. I received a press release this week from sustainable furniture maker South Cone, which gathered twelve industry leaders at the October High Point, the prestigious furniture market, to talk about sustainability in wood harvesting and furniture manufacturing. At the end of the meeting, the leaders formed the Sustainable Furniture Council—which is now open to new members, both manufacturers and retailers alike.

South Cone CEO Gerry Cooklin ( points out that furniture makers are in a unique position to preserve the rainforest (where the most damaging logging serves that industry’s needs). Cooklin also announced that South Cone had its best-ever year at High Point. “For higher-end consumers, environmental preservation is starting to drive purchasing decisions,” Cooklin observes. “The tipping point is coming in sustainable furniture.”

From where I sit, this tipping point—in all industries—becomes more tantalizingly reachable every day. We can accelerate its process by applauding and supporting each and every move that companies and individuals make toward bringing it forth. Or we can just continue to gripe that they're not doing enough.

Happy holidays.

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