You may think that from reading the post heading, I’ll be spewing some wisdom about the oh-so-glamourous party life.
Too bad I’m not much of a party person. (I try)
No, I’ll be talking within the realm of environmental impact, of sustainability. If you’re pretty inclined in that domain, you probably have already heard of what I’m going to talk about.
SHOES - Simple Shoes®
When I was still in the middle of high school, I somehow stumbled (maybe through Treehugger) across this website of a shoe company called Simple Shoes. And I immediately was hooked onto their merchandise. I watched the video of the company’s story back then and was fascinated by how their shoes were consciously made. (I know that may not seem as impressive since it seems almost imperative nowadays to be environmentally conscious, but back then, as a mere high school student with a limited knowledge of the world, it was quite the marvel. I still have the E-mail where I excitedly talked about my find to the members of my high school’s environmental club.) I felt that it was really awesome!
Materials included hemp, recycled tires, organic cotton, cork, and other sustainable and/or biodegradable materials. And they use water-based glues for putting everything together. The shoes/boots are so simplistic-looking yet look so good! Their few bag/backpack designs were really nice as well. And I have to add how I love the names of their products. Like the "BRR" product line representing sneakers that’ll keep your feet warm for longer in colder weather. Or "Satire" (read the Treehugger article here). More expensive than other shoes, but they became my favourite shoe company even without having bought anything from them, yet (and I’m not THAT into shoes! – yes, so I may be heavily biased…)!
The website itself was very clean, interactive, and even comical to read when I first encountered it. I would consider that it had a user-friendly interface, something that was probably creeping up to the surface at that time (or not, I wouldn’t be so sure since I wasn’t as interested in technology back then). These days, having a very satisfying experience on the web is something everyone strives to optimize (look at the changes Google has made to Gmail, or the dimensions created with Facebook’s Timeline – though one can of course criticise). Maybe I should talk about this topic in another post…
Anyway, I would trust their quality to be worth a purchase. I have looked at reviews that give mixed views, and I wouldn’t doubt any of it, even if reviews were negative for perhaps the durability with the water-based glues (though others curiously enough were praising the durability), among other things. The sustainable materials used and biodegradable biotechnologies such as EcoPure (go to the link I shared above to read more about it if you haven’t already done so) make Simple Shoes at least definitely worth having some consideration in buying as an enthusiast in sustainability. I’d still love them.
And so I enthusiastically added myself onto their mailing list to get updates on new styles and sales (every E-mail was pretty exciting as the new shoes always looked nice, with the interesting product names). I told myself that when I got older and had a good stash of money (and a credit card), that I’d order a few pairs, and that nice backpack.
However, I can no longer access the website. (dun dun dun)
Recently, they have "ceased distribution" of their products. After 20 years, they’ve stopped ("taking a break") for whatever reasons they have.
I should’ve risked it and bought a pair. Now I may never receive the joy of directly ordering from their online store.
I realize I never really had a grasp on what sustainability was really all about until the first year of university. I knew what it meant I guess, but I certainly use the term more now than I did in high school. It was all really "eco-friendly" and "green" back then. That was probably because the club, called Earthcore – which is an awesome club name, by the way, and we had an equally awesome slogan one year being "Don’t let the ego destroy the eco" – was your usual environmental awareness, tree hugger high school group. Simple Shoes really gave me my first memorable glimpse into the whole entrepreneurial side of being "eco-friendly". I see it as a dynamic dimension adjacent to the more conventional methods of environmental activism -you know, planting tulip bulbs in the fall, picking up litter around the community, and trying to get people into some energy-saving household habits.
Well, their Facebook page still exists, at least!
DRINKS - Getting Clean Water: Beyond the Matter of Functionality
A little more than a year ago, I attended a lunch seminar offered by the University of Toronto student chapter of the Ontario Water Works Association (OWWA). The director of non-profit organization Clear Cambodia, Mr. Yim Viriya, and a couple of representatives from the Drinking Water Research Group had come in to talk about their influential work in providing clean water access to communities across the impoverished Southeast Asian country of Cambodia. The technology they use is called the BioSand filter (BSF). A concise summary of the project and how the BSF works can be read in this blog article I found (by the way, the photo above is from that blog article’s website).
The point that they emphasized, and which intrigued me the most, was how the project embraced active involvement from the community.
Having them learn to build these relatively inexpensive filters themselves and maintain them for use increases sense of ownership/independence and responsibility, of which they would take the filter more seriously – and stick with it. What’s more, the filters are not difficult to build, and they can be taken apart if needed for transport and rebuilt just as easily.
Countries like Cambodia come with the own cultural background, and so it is important to consider this for such humanitarian projects to be successful, and in helping promote sustainable development within third-world countries.
LIGHTS - Isang Litrong Liwanag (A Litre of Light)
(Kudos to someone who shared this news clip, in which I learned about this project.)
An ideal design would characteristically be simple, yet leaving a lasting impact.
What about a bottle filled with water and a little bleach?
Originally developed by students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), this incredibly simple technology has lighted up many homes in the Philippines where the interior is always dark, even in the daytime, in addition to already poor living conditions and expensive electricity prices. In being inserted into the roof of a house, the water with bleach in the bottle refracts sunlight and allows up to 55 watts to penetrate the previously dark rooms. Living standards have improved in these homes, and there are now projects running in other countries to implement this innovative and sustainable technology.
Look around their website for more information: http://isanglitrongliwanag.org/ (photo above was taken from this site) .
MUSIC - Reverb
I believe that it was very recently I heard of an organization that created a link between music and the environment. I think I heard about it during the keynote of this year’s Autodesk University conference while watching some of it online.
For sure, I’ve heard of Earth Day concerts (and as well the Live 8 concerts, but those were geared toward the Make Poverty History campaign and the G8 summit). And I know that our local orchestra has developed a sort of tradition of holding an annual Earth Hour concert, where during the hour, they turn off the stage lights and all the building’s lights while these small reading lights attached to their stands are on as they continue to play.
But Reverb is pretty thorough when trying to "green" music concerts and tours as much as possible. They’ve worked with bands such as the Dave Matthews Band, Maroon 5 and Train, among other musicians. Not that I’ve read too much into what they do, but not only do they work with musicians in selling more eco-friendly merchandise and trying to offset their carbon footprint as they travel, but they also target the many flocking fans. At concerts they would put up tents/booths in creating a festival-like atmosphere, coining the concept "Eco-Village". Fans would be engaged in environmental activities and displays. And from what I’ve skimmed through in their website, it seems like they’ve tried to hit at every angle they can.
A promising group!
So there you have it. Try to have a eco-conscious party now. ;)