The recent first-ever US China Green Forum shed light on how so many entrepreneurs, not for profit companies, and grassroots efforts are shaping the destiny of our consumption in both China and the United States.
The Morning Session: Laying the Ground Work
In the morning session, we learned about why consumption matters in both the United States and China as well as how Chinese women grassroots green efforts are changing China’s landscape. Sarah Vogel of the Environmental Defense Fund gave a compelling presentation about toxic chemicals in our environment. As I have lamented before, Climate Change, albeit important isn’t the only environmental issue we are grappling with.
During lunch, former Commissioner of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, spoke about consumption in both countries. During her keynote, she fondly spoke about one her favorite pieces of legislation, the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act which has spurred local environmental activism. Activism always starts at the local level.
The Afternoon Session: The Case Studies
In the afternoon sessions, we were treated to success stories of not for profit organizations and entrepreneurs who created their own thumb prints to alter how we consume. Julia Cohen of the Plastic Pollution Coalition (pictured above,) Mary Murphy of the Center for New American Dream, Peggy Neu of Meatless Monday, and Peter Banwell of Energy Star were some of the not for profit organization featured panelists.
There were two different entrepreneur sessions: food and drink and personal and household products. Cheryl Newman of Honest Tea, Charis Smith of MOM’s Organic Market, Yingjie Jia of Xing’an Tower Organic Food Company presented successful green food company case studies. Karen of ecokaren and co-founder of the Green Sisterhood went to the other session. See her perspective here.
My Feelings about the Conference?
I seesawed between two different emotions. Sadness and admiration. During the morning session, the Chinese delegation was clearly passionate about their love for the Earth. In all the slideshows, they spoke of Mother Earth like a dear sacred friend. However, after each presentation, some of the Chinese delegation questioned how could real changes occur in their country Because of government censorship. The same freedom of speech that we take for granted and has propelled the green movement in America is stifled in China.
As I listened, I wondered how change could really happen in China. We Americans are still demanding products at warp speed, so how can real change happen with China’s current government? Money talks as the environment suffers. Ann Goodman, one of the moderators, told me that Beijing’s air quality is deplorable.
On the other hand, I felt admiration for all the organizations whose grassroots efforts such as Meatless Monday and the Plastic Pollution Coalition are changing the way we view consumption. Meatless Monday has gone from a simple idea to a concept that is embraced all over the world.
I am also in awe of companies like Honest Tea, MOM’s Organic Market, and all the other entrepreneurs who spoke who didn’t follow the usual course of business. They make products that aren’t harmful to the Earth or its inhabitants. At the same time, they have shown the world their business models work.
MOM’s Organic Market has grown to ten stores. Honest Tea sells millions of their free trade organic tea throughout the world. Xing’an Tower Organic Food Company supplies organic products to their consumers.
As alluring as this conference was, I left with a pit in my stomach. Did we have enough time to change our consumption patterns to get us off the path of our own destruction? Could grassroot changes in China really change the environmental issues without governmental involvement?
Both questions need to be addressed and the dialog must continue. My sense is this conference will morph into that needed dialog with more players and more interest. It is a dialog that must continue to stop both the toxic chemicals and Climate changes that face our world.
Congratulations to Green Sister Diane of Big Green Purse for her dedication to creating this forum to start the dialog.
- US-China Greener Consumption Forum Aims to Harness the Purse
- Roasted Almond Butter, Sliced Pear, Agave Sandwich for Meatless Monday
- GMOs: What You Need to Know Conference Dispels Myths
- Toxic Chemicals and Climate Change: Both Need to Be Addressed
- Honest Tea CEO Compromises Less, Increases Sustainable Efforts