Last month I had the pleasure of attending the 16th annual LOHAS Forum in Boulder, CO. What is LOHAS? It stands for Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability. This Forum has evolved and expanded from a small sleepy conference in Boulder to a movement that touches and inspires companies and individuals globally. LOHAS provides the context to bring like-minded people together who want to make the world a better place through the business of health and sustainability.
For three full days about 300 folks from around the world participated in Workshops, Lectures, Panel Discussions, Networking Receptions, Classes and Camaraderie.
At Only Natural Pet, our entire company is striving to become more sustainable, both personally and professionally. We not only want this for ourselves and our company…but also for our four legged friends. My goal in attending was to look for ideas, organizations, technologies and people that could help us on that mission.
Some of my favorite sessions included:
- ‘Make it Personal, Make it Stick: Creating a Culture of Sustainability’. This was a presentation and interactive workshop led by Hunter Lovins, President and Founder of Natural Capitalism Solution. If you’ve never met Hunter, heard her speak or read one of her amazing books…you are in for a treat. I first met Hunter 20 years ago in Aspen, CO when she was co-founding the Rocky Mountain Institute. For kicks she was really into barrel racing at the local Snowmass Rodeo every Wednesday and Saturday night. Boy she could fly. Now she and her organization are totally focused on helping make this a more sustainable planet. In this rousing workshop we learned and shared how leading companies make their sustainability programs ‘sticky’ by creating a personal connection to their employees values. Building on what employees care about, inspiring a commitment to action, and driving participation will create a deeper employee engagement and behavior change throughout all levels of an organization. I had a good time telling the group about the ‘Looking Through a Green Lens’ exercise we did at Only Natural Pet. More on that later.
- ‘Sustainable Packaging’. At Only Natural Pet we are striving to get as many of our products in as sustainable packaging as possible. But sustainable packaging is a complicated issue with many stakeholders. The lessons of unintended consequences must guide our thinking. It is amazing to me how seemingly simple solutions can lead us down a rat hole. Let’s just look at dog food packaging. The kibble bags need to keep in the nutritious oils so must have an inner material that makes recycling very difficult. These bags are heavy but stack well on pallets. Canned food is in round containers that do not ‘cube’ well. When these are put in cases there is always the diamond shape of wasted space between cans. This leads to more truckloads then if the cans could be square. As of yet, they can’t. However, we use steel cans. Steel is the most easily recycled and reusable materials out there. Why? Because powerful magnets can suck the steel (and only the steel) off of single stream recycling conveyor belts. It needs no hand sorting and little processing. Plus steel is about the only material that is infinitely recyclable. All other materials will degrade over time to the point of being unusable. In this session we heard from Ecocycle, Goodbelly and a sustainable packaging expert on the latest materials and technologies.
- ‘High Impact Partnerships’. This was about how brands and non-profits can create meaningful progress and brand-value through collaboration on environmental issues. We heard from executives at Patagonia (she loved our PAWprint Chronicles moniker that plays on their Footprint Chronicles. Check it out on Patagonia’s website), New Belgium Brewery, Kleen Kanteen and 1% for the Planet. At Only Natural Pet we are currently contributing to a variety of pet related causes. Are these the ‘best’ ones? Why or why not? What could be better? Better in what way? Lots of good questions…and lots of thoughtful discussion.
I could go on for hours but check the LOHAS website and think about how we can help our pets lead a better Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability………Chris