Lessons in Life: Reflections from the Lifestyles of Health & Sustainability (LOHAS) Conference
As faculty, staff and students from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) prepare for the college’s 5th Annual Sustainability Conference, which will take place on April 12, 2011, I cannot help but think about all the great sustainability-themed conferences that I’ve recently attended, from the American Marketing Association (AMA) Educators’ Conference in Boston to the Green Festivals in San Francisco. However, the one that particularly stood out was the LOHAS Conference in Colorado.
Welcome to LOHAS and Boulder, Colorado
I travelled to Colorado to attend the LOHAS conference because FIT, as many other colleges and universities across the country and around the world, is infusing sustainability throughout its curriculum. The event attracted more than 500 attendees, including over 50 guest speakers, from 230 companies and organizations representing various industries, across public and private sectors. The 2010 roundup included The Coca Cola Company, General Mills, Neutrogena, eBay, Johnson & Johnson, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Green America, movie directors/producers, academics, physicians, journalists, marketers, investors, artists and so many others, with the common goal of sharing and gaining knowledge that will inspire all to strive toward a sustainable future.
After a forty-five minute drive from Denver International Airport to Boulder, I was staring at the majestic Flatiron Mountains, which appeared to be guarding this picturesque town, and instinctively knew I was somewhere special. For example, it is home to the University of Colorado, has a large environmentally conscious orientated population and businesses, is surrounded by 36,000 acres of recreational space, has a bustling social scene, and was even rated #1 on Forbes.com for America’s Top 25 Towns to Live Well.
Typically, a New Yorker attending the usual business conference would not expect to be greeted by a Shaman banging a drum, with a rattle, while instructing the audience to close their eyes, relax their bodies and meditate over a spiritual image projected on the front screen. But this was no average business conference…this was LOHAS’ opening “Fit Body/Fit Soul” session.
Shaman and Healer Brant Secunda and Mark Allen, 6-time Ironman World Champion took us through their fascinating personal journeys and explained how a sustainable lifestyle must first start with a person’s spiritual realizations and connectivity to nature before it can be extended outward to society and the environment. Shaman Brant Secunda outlined the 4 Powers, which the Huichol Indian indigenous people of Mexico, who he lived with for many years, believe to be human capacities that all individuals should strive to achieve: love, is the first power, as a natural force ingrained in all of life; second is physical power, he stated “your body is an extension of Mother Earth”; the third power is intuition, constant development of spiritual awareness; and, intelligence is the fourth, the importance of not abusing one’s power or taking advantage of others. This brought me back to a program I recently viewed on LinkTV titled “Earth Wisdom for a World in Crisis”, which described how many, including the United Nations, are discovering that indigenous peoples could hold some vital keys to the survival of our environment: http://www.linktv.org/globalspirit/Wisdom.
Mark Allen and Shaman Brant Secunda concluded their workshop by providing techniques that transform negative emotions into positive energies to help individuals face challenges. And do we have challenges…the difficulties we are facing today, i.e., global warming, ongoing human rights abuses, corporate/political scandals, world poverty, etc. due to habits, past decisions, fear, apathy, and so on are haunting our society and will linger for future generations unless we work together to resolve them.
Work for the happiness of others and you will be happy
The stage was set for attendees to network and collaborate, during conference workshops and meals. LOHAS not only provided delicious organic breakfasts, lunches and snacks, but also served up much food for thought in the remaining 34 sessions of this 3-day event.
To give you a taste, during the “Developing a Healthy Planet: Our Health and Environmental Health are the Same” meeting, Dr. Alan Greene, Author and Physician, discussed how our act of eating is intimately linked to the environment, through the stages of food production, packaging, delivery and especially consumption, stating “Food plays our body like a piano.” Representatives from the Natural Marketing Institute reviewed global and domestic consumer trends, in the “New Paradigms in Health and Sustainability” session, advising that the US LOHAS market size represents almost $300 billion in consumer sales across the market sectors of Green Building, Personal Health, Eco-Tourism, Alternative Transportation, Natural Lifestyles and Alternative Energy. Panelists on the “Leading Edutainment” workshop reviewed the unique way of educating and successfully engaging audiences through creative storytelling documentaries, i.e., Dirt!-The Movie and the Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove. There were also “Igniting Inspiration 101: An Advanced Empathy Workshop for Conscious Capitalists”, “Rewriting Rules of Consumer Engagement”, “Understanding the Carbon Economy”, “Kids vs. Global Warming”, “Understanding the Value of Social Currency” sessions and many more workshops all videotaped by LOHAS www.lohas.com.
Dr. Elliot Dacher’s echoed the advice of Shaman Secunda, when he discussed the joining of the inner (self) and outer (environment/society) as the foundation for a sustainable lifestyle, during his “The Path to Human Flourishing” session. This MD Internal Medicine summed up the overall theme of the conference, linking all sessions through a common denominator, he stated “Work for your own happiness, others suffer; work for the happiness of others and you will be happy.”
Millions of Gallons of BP Oil Pollute the Gulf of Mexico
Philippe Cousteau, CEO of EarthEcho International participated in the panel “The Situation in the Gulf” along with Stephanie Owens, director of the Office of Public Engagement for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Charles Hambleton, producer for The Cove. The audience cringed as Philippe provided a first-hand account of what he experienced as he dove 20/30 feet into polluted parts of the Gulf, looked up, and saw dead fish mixed with oil in what appeared to be a reddish hue toxic soup that almost blocked out the sun.
We all have different vantage points on this disaster and other global challenges. However, society must realize that whether one resides along the Gulf of Mexico, in NYC, Boulder or any other town/city in the U.S., or across the globe, we all share responsibility in working to solve these challenges. And we could use all the advice available to become mindful about our thoughts, decisions, actions and reactions, whether it comes from a Shaman, physician, entrepreneur, academic, marketer, activist or artist.
FIT’s Liquid Planet – An Opportunity to Get Involved
Learn more about sustainability and get involved by attending FIT’s 5th Annual Sustainability Conference http://www.fitnyc.edu/8609.asp, which is free and open to students, faculty, staff and the public, on April 12, 2011 in the Great Hall. Inspired by the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, this year’s theme is “The Liquid Planet,” focusing on water as one of our most precious resources.
Written by Professor Shireen Musa,
Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York