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We Are the World

With optimism and visionary ideas, inventors, activists, and yoga practitioners are reimagining the future of life on Earth—and making it happen.

By Carmel Wroth

Rethinking Our Relationship to Stuff

Game Changer: Sharing 2.0
Despite your best efforts to reduce your consumer footprint, sometimes baby really does need new shoes. Now, a growing number of businesses are promoting an idea known as "collaborative consumption," which uses online networks to make it easy to borrow or barter for what you want, reducing the need to buy new stuff. On NeighborGoods (neighborgoods.net), members lend or rent household items such as lawnmowers or juicers. Sites such as I-Ella (i-ella.com) and Swapstyle (swapstyle.com) let you trade, sell, or borrow stylish clothing and accessories. ThredUP (thredup.com) gives parents a way to trade outgrown kids' clothes for the next size. Swap.com (swap.com) offers electronics, video games, and more. BookMooch (bookmooch.com) is a trading place for book lovers. The movement even includes transportation: RelayRides (relayrides.com) lets you rent out your car by the hour to others who need wheels.

Plastic Protest: Kick Your Bag Habit
Yogi, activist, and entrepreneur Andy Keller is at the forefront of the battle to eliminate our reliance on single-use plastic bags. His ally? The Bag Monster, a floppy costume that Keller created out of 500 plastic shopping bags, the approximate number the average American discards each year. The comically scary character has made thousands of appearances at city council meetings, in schools, and in viral videos. Keller sells a line of reusable grocery sacks through his company, Chico-Bag, based in Chico, California. He has personally campaigned for city- and statewide plastic bag bans and has donated thousands of reusable sacks to community groups to help raise awareness of needless and harmful plastic waste. "My goal is to help humanity kick the single-use bag habit," he says. "If you take a moment and think, 'Do I actually need that bag?' the answer is often no. That's the big challenge: taking a moment to think."

Think About This: Plastic bags are made from nonrenewable petroleum, and few of the 100 billion bags Americans use each year are recycled (about 3 percent, according to 2009 data from California). To date, 28 cities have banned single-use bags. Learn more at bagmonster.com.

One Thing You Can Do: Think Twice, Buy Once
"We are using up the resources of 1.5 planets. That is a long way from sustainability. Every product made takes something from the planet that we can't give back. So think twice before you buy anything. Think about what went into making that product. Buy better quality, but buy less. Your shopping habits are where you control your impact on natural resources." —Yvon Chouinard, founder and CEO of outdoor-apparel company Patagonia.

Eco-Practice: Nurture Nature
"True conscious consumption begins with awareness that we are one with nature. You can care about the planet intellectually and emotion-ally, but to actually comprehend that we are nature requires an embodied experience," says Gillian Kapteyn Comstock of the Metta Earth Institute, an ecological retreat center in Lincoln, Vermont. She offers the following practice for deepening your ecological consciousness.

1. Sit down and begin audible Ujjayi breathing. Notice the sound and sensation of your breath as you inhale and exhale.

2. As you breathe in, realize that you are inhaling molecules that were once in the clouds, the trees, or another creature's lungs.

3. As you breathe out, imagine your breath flowing back into the atmosphere to be breathed back in by other people or animals.

4. Continue until you begin to feel that you are your environment, that you are literally connected through your breath with all of life. Sit for at least two or three minutes, or until you feel the awareness settle into your body and mind. Carry this ecological consciousness with you throughout the day and let it affect your choices.

Simple Solution: Naked Groceries
Advocates of healthful eating suggest shopping the grocery store's perimeter to avoid the processed and packaged foods displayed in the center aisles. A team of entrepreneurs in Austin, Texas, have a better idea: eliminate the middle altogether. Their store, in.gredients, scheduled to open this summer, will be entirely packaging free, encouraging customers to reconsider their shopping and cooking habits. The goal, says co-founder Christian Lane, is to encourage a zero-waste lifestyle, one that he strives to live. "We practice pre-cycling by refusing to create waste in the first place," he says.

Think About This: Thirty percent of the waste we create each year in the US comes from product packaging (roughly 75 million tons).

Cellular Rejuvenation: Call For You
Sprint's Samsung Replenish smartphone is composed of 82 percent recyclable materials and encased in 35 percent recycled plastic. With decent processing power and a full array of features, the $50 Samsung Replenish is a respectable entry-level Android—one that can get its charge directly from the sun with an optional solar-paneled battery cover. Now that's a smart phone.

Think About This: Some 129 million mobile devices, made of precious (and toxic) metals and plastics, were deposited in landfills in 2009, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Upcycled: Message in a Bottle
Proving that even tiny scraps of ocean plastic waste can be recovered and turned into a viable resource, Method, a manufacturer of cleaning products based in San Francisco, has recycled some of the plastic that washed ashore from the North Pacific Gyre. Method teamed up with recycler Envision Plastics and beach clean-up organizations in Hawaii to collect, clean, and re-engineer ocean plastic into material as good as virgin plastic to make bottles for their line of cleaning products this year.

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May 2012

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Aaron Patrick

this is a great article! thank you for this :D

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