The Not So Lazy Environmentalist
A self-described “passionate yet lazy environmentalist” Josh Dorfman, radio host, environmental entrepreneur, author, and speaker, is anything but lazy. Since starting his satellite radio show, The Lazy Environmentalist, Josh has interviewed people ranging from celebrities to magazine editors highlighting green living, sustainable travel, and more.
What inspired you to start the Lazy Environmentalist?
I felt that a voice was missing from the environmental movement that embraced the realities of our consumption society and instead of guilt-tripping and preaching, strived to make green living fun, attractive, and super convenient. As much as so many of us care about the planet, leading environmentally responsible lives is not always top priority. There’s our careers to attend to, our kids’ soccer practice, and millions of other aspects to our frenetic lives that make going green challenging. My aim is to constantly inform about green choices that actually make our lives better, so that going green becomes something we want to do instead of something we feel compelled to do.
In what ways have your own habits changed since starting your radio show? Are you still lazy?
I’m definitely still lazy, which is why I want green solutions that don’t require me to change my habits. But if changing my habits is required, then I want green options that are cool or save me money or make me healthier. I’m more apt to go green if it’s in my enlightened self-interest – that is, it’s better for the planet and it’s also better for me. “Sacrifice Environmentalism” is a really lousy brand marketing concept. We need smarter thinking, more innovation.
Do you have any examples of innovative ideas that seem to work for you?
I’ve been sampling reusable bags from Envirosax and Flip and Tumble and Angry Little Girls (I love this one). I’m more apt to change my behavior and bring a reusable shopping bag with me to the store if the bag is stylish, convenient, and/or funny. Think about the Toyota Prius. People buy it partly because it saves them money at the pump and it’s better for the environment. But people mostly buy it because they know that when they’re driving it, everyone else on the road sees what a wonderful, enlightened, hero of the planet they are. We need more solutions like that. Relying upon people to “do the right thing” is a losing proposition. Engage people and let them feel really conspicuously good about going green and we’ll get some results. I know a lot of people take issue with me on this, but the question we have to ask ourselves is: Do we want to feel righteous or do we want to be effective? I prefer trying to be effective.
Do you have any green travel tips?
I’ve been researching airlines that have the most fuel-efficient fleets of airplanes. If we think about driving fuel-efficient cars then we ought to be thinking about flying in fuel-efficient planes. With each new generation of airplanes, fuel efficiency improves. As far as I’ve been able to research, it appears that Continental and JetBlue have the newest airplanes. I travel a lot to speak to audiences around the country so I try to fly those airlines. I think carbon offsets are probably a good thing to purchase when traveling, but I’m not 100% convinced. The companies selling them aren’t very transparent so it’s hard to know how much of what I pay is being allocated toward reducing greenhouse gases.
Is there any green gear that you use while on the road?
For travel-related green fashion, I like to shop at Nau for high-performance, stylish, and sustainable clothing. I also carry a Voltaic solar messenger bag . Voltaic is about to release the first-ever solar bag that can power a laptop. It provides an energy source on the go while keeping me off the grid. Rental car companies are adding fuel-efficient cars, such as certain hybrid models, to their fleets, so it’s becoming easier to rent an eco-friendly car. When it’s possible and realistic, I choose to take the train over flying. I understand that it’s more a fuel-efficient way to travel. I also like the experience because I don’t have to deal with hectic airports and it affords a lot of quiet time to do work.
Are there any good resources for learning about green hotels? Do you have any favorite green hotels?
Lots of great resources. The Green Hotels Association has a very extensive list of member hotels. The Rainforest Alliance’s Eco-Index of Sustainable Tourism features some amazing hotels and resorts. Responsibletravel.com lists hotels and resorts around the globe plus socially responsible tour operators. Wild Asia is a Malaysia-based conservation think tank that supports conservation throughout Asia and offers an easily searchable database of Asian hotels and resorts that are committed to eco-conservation, respecting local cultures, and supporting local economic development. My favorite environmentally responsible hotel operators are Kimpton for boutique hotels and Fairmont for amazing luxury resorts. My brother got engaged at Chateau Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies. The hotel draws 40% of its power from renewable energy. The whole event was amazing but it pretty much meant that I had to ski by myself.
What was one of the best eco-innovations of 2007 and what do you hope for 2008?
I think the launch of Nau was one of the best eco-innovations of 2007. It’s so important for eco-clothing to be really desirable and at least somewhat affordable. For 2008, I think the big story is that “reuse” is going to become the most emphasized of the three Rs – reduce, reuse, and recycle. Freecycle.org, a site that helps people give stuff away, is adding 25,000 members a week. If it’s not already, it will soon be the largest “environmental/reuse” organization on the planet. Sites like Swango and Swap it make it fun and convenient to trade clothing and accessories or books and DVDs for free. Play It Again Sports is a national chain that makes purchasing used sports equipment a snap. Dyscern is an online company that does the same thing for electronics. These organizations and companies enable us to surround ourselves with the stuff we want while reducing the environmental damage caused by overconsumption.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
How do you stay on top of green trends and the who’s who for your blog and radio show?
I read as widely as possible. I recently subscribed to the Wall Street Journal because the newspaper offers the best environmental reporting. The Financial Times recently reported that Israel plans to move almost entirely to electric cars in the next 18 months. That’s a huge story, but it’s not really being covered in the U.S. So I rely upon a mix of traditional business news sources, scans of the green blogosphere, and our network of green entrepreneurs, journalists, and activists who feed us information about their own ventures and those that they’re hearing about.
What’s one eco-friendly travel item you can’t live without?
Teko Socks. Never underestimate the value of traveling in a great pair of sustainable socks.