TED Conversations

Sarah Shewey

CEO/Founder, Happily


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How can we help the sustainability community maintain its growth? *A TEDActive Sustainability Project question*


The TEDActive Sustainability Project will look at best practices in community organizing, and explore radical solutions to push the sustainability movement forward.

At TEDActive2011 in Palm Springs, an amazing group of individuals came together as a group to come up with a simple micro-action solution for helping the sustainability community continue to grow. After a quick 36 hour period of time, they recommended that we move the sustainability TEDTalks into TEDWalks by starting TED Conversations that include an action item attached to a TEDTalk. If you'd like to join them in doing so, please add the tag TEDActiveSUS in the "topics" section of the conversation form.

What would be your micro-solution to growing the sustainability community?


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    Apr 20 2011: Today, I've faced an issue at a local conference I attended, that I'd really like to bring on this platform.
    The aim of the conference was to guide entrepreneurs and businessmen -I'm neither- on how to adopt green practices (hopefully without greenwashing), how to do sustainable marketing, how to create sustainable brands... (which all sounds like a joke to me, because the end wish is primarily profit, thus it is just greenwashing for the sake of looking good.)
    The speakers were giving "good" application examples from big companies... then came (I'm sorry if it's unappropriate but I'll mention the company name) the example of UPS. This company made up something called "carbon-neutral-shipping" in which their customers pay more to have this service, and this extra amount is to be transfered to support renewables.
    It sounds pretty cool at first, isn't it?
    But, think again!
    Doesn't it actually sound discouraging?
    We are trying to get more people into the sustainable community, and the companies are punishing their customers for choosing the more sustainable service. They are just after profit and the name-tag. Isn't this clearly greenwashing? (even the presenters have fallen into the trap until I warned them.)
    Shouldn't it be vice-versa?
    So that more people will prefer the "green" option and may drop the prejudice that "green" is expensive.
    I understand that it is not possible for every product or service, but in this specific example, the carbon-use-shippers can pay more to balance their effect. So that they will gradually start to join the sustainable community.
    I think this is one of the most serious challenges we have to face... changing this "business" mindset.
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      Apr 23 2011: The problem is that "green"is not part of business in most of the companies. And they look at this as side business and start by compensations. Logistics companies, for example, have to start thinking about changing fossil fuels to other sources of energy, for example. Only by doing this, for example, a green fuel market will emerge and that will be expensive as it is now.
      Sustainability should be part of the business and not seen as philanthropy. We still have a long way to, but we already started.
    • Apr 29 2011: Naz: I work for UPS. I wanted to explain a bit about our carbon neutral service. We started it after our customers asked for an option to mitigate their carbon when we calculated the carbon impact of their shipping. This was a year ago. The cost in the U.S. (sorry I dont know what it is in Turkey, Naz) is as little as 5 cents per package. We don't make a profit on this service but use the money to purchase high quality certified offsets. And we match that offset purchases that our customers make (we have pledged up to $1 million for this program). We've been very careful to make this whole process transparent. We have used third-parties to verify and certify our methodology for calculating the carbon and then purchasing the offsets in the most credible way possible. You can read our FAQ at www.ups.com/carbonneutral. (You will need to pick your country first to get geographically-specific information). I hope this will help address your concerns. Lynnette
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        Apr 29 2011: Cool!!! Sorry, if I took it out on UPS (:/).... I didn't mean to offend or anything... I was furious simply because the presenters (who had nothing to do with UPS so they actually don't know much about the process) were explaining things without any depth... I'm used to approach every company claiming to be "green" a bit skeptically because one source says something and another a completely different thing. In this overdlown of info one has to question before absorbing that info...
        I'm truly glad you enlightened me on that. I'm now sure to try this service.... Keep up the good work.

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