Local Currents


Green Ocean Strategy


By David Vanderveen

“You do not merely want to be considered just the best of the best. You want to be considered the only ones who do what you do.” –Jerry Garcia


Bill McDonough, the “Cradle to Cradle” author and designer-architect quoted Garcia during part of a day-long introductory meeting last week in Charlottesville, Va. The fundamental idea is to develop a focus where you can not only be best, but also uniquely best, something Bill calls his, “green ocean strategy.”


Green ocean environmentalism is about changing the way we think about solving ecological problems by intentionally designing for good. Last week my business partners and I started looking at our own companies and products in this light.


Bill was in town speaking for the Townhall Foundation recently and expressed the desire to create a “Cradle to Cradle” prize in Laguna. The idea is to get companies with Laguna connections, local non-profits and high school students working together to develop real products certified via the Cradle to Cradle Institute.


As I see it, a prize jump-starts development of what Bill calls a Cradle to Cradle Community. His view is global; the scale of this prize is local. A C2C Community is simply like-minded people who focus on solutions that are intentionally good rather than just being less bad.


Environmental activism has two strategic problems. First, the overall narrative is apocalyptic without salvation. If you follow the extrapolative science of Al Gore, for example, man cannot do enough “less bad” to save the planet. The world still dies, just a little more slowly. . .maybe.


Where is the motivation to change behavior in that story?


The second big problem is the approach. Focusing on doing less bad will never change our direction. For example, many low energy light bulbs use less energy but include toxic mercury as a component. If we’re heading south and we want to head north, we need to completely change how we think about environmental solutions.


McDonough’s approach is about abundance. Rather than environmentalism defined by efficiency, C2C defines it by effectiveness. Efficiency has some near-term merit but technology needs to mimic a biological metabolic cycle. If buildings were like trees—if they cleaned water, created energy from the sun and provided habitat for diverse species, then more buildings would be an environmentally good thing. As an example, Bill is designing Chinese eco cities that use rooftops for farmland, recycle gray water and sewage and incorporate solar power. Businesses can grow, land is preserved and energy is created. Entropy diminishes.


A Cradle to Cradle Prize would foster the design of technical products so that waste equals food, renewable energy is utilized and diversity is celebrated. The change in approach and intent is dramatic. Companies and communities that follow this direction can create new space. If a cardboard box decomposes and grows the embedded seeds into trees, why put extra carbon in the air to recycle?


For something as simple as energy drinks, which is what my company makes, we will be going through a confidential review of all of our suppliers, ingredients, parts, paints and linings. Our stated intent will be optimal sustainability. It won’t happen overnight and it has to make financial sense, but we will get there.


The logic is simple. It’s good to do good. Doing less bad is still doing bad. Jerry Garcia also said, “Choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil.”


As a community, we should ask if we want to just do less bad or do good. The answer seems obvious. It would also seem to make sense to include the next generation of adults in the change process. As Laguna Beach, we can differentiate ourselves among coastal towns as an early adopter of the Cradle to Cradle philosophy. Contact me at [email protected] if you’re interested.

David Vanderveen is a Laguna Beach resident, husband, father and energy drink entrepreneur.

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