Thinking Sustainably


Thinking Sustainably

At this year’s Sustainable Brands and South by Southwest Eco Conferences, speakers shared their words of wisdom on how society can begin to think sustainably.


Imitable Leadership  

“Start with what’s sacred,” is the advice from Raphael Bemporad, Principal and Chief Strategy Officer of BBMG (  During his keynote presentation at the 2012 Sustainable Brands Conference (, he defined the sacred as “the hopes, needs and aspirations of our shared humanity” and believes that leaders can use it to inspire people to “work together to function better as a team.”  Raphael suggests that society is “yearning for a new way to do business and people are looking for new opportunities for engaging life to connect with one another and heal together.”  He believes that “decisions should be led by integrity and humanity; we change behaviors by following the sacredness and by sharing our stories.”


Stories about Stuff

Attendees at this past South by Southwest (SXSW) Eco Conference ( heard many stories from Annie Leonard, Co-Director of The Story of Stuff Project.   Annie started her keynote presentation by sharing her personal story, describing how she investigated global environmental health and justice issues for almost two decades.  She traveled to dozens of countries, visiting countless factories and trash dumps, learning what was happening at the beginning and end of various product lifecycles.  “As Annie witnessed first-hand the horrendous impacts of both over- and under- consumption around the world, she became fiercely dedicated to reclaiming and transforming our industrial and economic systems, so they serve, rather than destroy, ecological sustainability and social equity” (  These experiences motivated her to create and share a series of stories, starting with “The Story of Stuff” and then producing other videos including, “The Story of Cosmetics,” “The Story of Bottled Water” and “The Story of Electronics” (

Annie clearly conveyed her underlining message that happiness does not come from how much stuff one has but from how one participates in society, stating “Engaging our social connections and working together with a sense of purpose and meaning in life feeds our souls.”


Altruistic Designs

“We have altruism in our souls,” advised Tim Mohin, Director of Corporate Responsibility at AMD, during the SXSW Eco Conference.  While speaking about the importance of being mindful of how we treat the workers that manufacture our products, he described entering a factory, which his company utilized, and noticing that most of the employees were between 17 to 22 years old.  “Those young people put their education on hold in order to work,” he stated.  As a result, his company setup classrooms in the factory so the workers could continue their education.  When Tim returned to visit the factory, he was greeted by 30 to 40 employees who had completed some classes; they ran to him, hugged him and said “Thank you!”  Tim professed, “That was the most rewarding experience in my life!”


You’ve got Power

“Society is facing a deep moral challenge,” declared Bill McKibben, Co-Founder of 350.Org ( at the SXSW Eco Conference.  Discussing energy consumption and climate change, he cautioned, “The decisions we make now will determine what life is like for 10 billion people, the next 30 and 40 billion to follow and all of creation.”  Bill went on to state that we should think of alternative currencies, such as “the currency of compassion, the currency of science and the currency of reason.”  Similarly, attendees at the 2012 NYC Green Festival ( heard how they could make a change through their purchasing power.  “The marketplace is a democracy,” stated John Perkins, author, activist and economist (, “Every time you purchase or not purchase something, you vote, you cast a ballot; I don’t know what your passions are but you have talents to create a sustainable, just and peaceful world…you have the power.”

Written by Professor Shireen Musa

Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York


15 thoughts on “Thinking Sustainably

  1. This article was interesting to me because sustainability is a topic I am incredibly interested in. I have attended South by Southwest before but not since they have established the Eco Conference portion of the festival. I would love to attend SXSW again soon especially now that they have added this portion of the festival. All of the keynote speakers sounded like very passionate and creative people who have come up with great ideas on how to make a positive impact on the Earth. I am most familiar with Annie Leonard of Story of Stuff and Bill McKibben of I have seen the “Story of Bottled Water” video and although I am not a bottle water purchaser it definitely made me realize even more how important it is to use re-usable containers. Bill McKibben is incredibly informed on environmental science and is a great voice for environmental change. Sustainability is not just a trend, it is about global awareness and the shift to decreasing our negative impact on the environment.

  2. The perception on sustainability:

    After reviewing the article of sustainablity, I found out that it is the foremost activity that we all should participate and pay attention to. And, the “Global Warming” should be the obvious indication for us to see how we should protect and sustain on materials that we used. According to the article, we have the power to sustain, just and to make peace and health of the world. Moreover, Annie stated that “Engaging our social connections and working together with a sense of purpose and meaning in life feeds our souls.” I think this is true and the care of the environment is the foremost activity that we should agree and participate.

  3. What “Story of Stuff Project” providing is very useful and important for us to understand the system of global consumption. Their educational resources and programs such as books and events are very beneficial for students as well as teachers and global corporations’ leaders. Especially movies are made for all generation and easy to grasp the problem by using cute animation and giving realistic statistics. The statistical numbers shown in the video shocked us, but also gives important messages; how we should take the problem more seriously and how we own responsibilities about the problem to the other countries. It stimulates not only our awareness about consumption of natural resources, but also recognition about bad effects from products made outs side of the U.S. I think to become successful as sustainable company, also the public awareness about the problem of mass distribution and disposal has to be increased, and the action like “The Story of Stuff” is very important to increase it. I want to show those movies to my friends.

  4. This article is very interesting to me because it gives me another impression of sustainability. When I think of the word “sustainability,” it only reminds me of something eco-friendly or green. However, this article makes me think that being sustainable originally comes from thinking of what’s the most important in living a life such as hopes, ethics, and humanity etc.. The keynotes from those two speakers, Raphael Bemporad and Tim Mohin, are emphasizing this idea. I totally agree with them, because if once people start thinking with a consideration of those core essence of life, we do not need to put too much effort on trying to make people not to waste stuff or make people recycle. On top of that, this effort absolutely costs money. What Raphael says, “decisions should be led by integrity and humanity; we change behaviors by following the sacredness and by sharing our stories.” really touches my mind.

  5. Sustainability is a subject that is very present in everyone’s mind today. I found the article very interesting because it shows how organizations are working towards a more sustainable future. For me the most moving statement was of Tim Mohin Director of Corporate Responsibility at AMD. Sometimes we can forget that people that manufacture our products have a life outside of their job and that they might have other plans for themselves instead of work but don’t have the means to do it. I can only imagine how rewarding it must be to provide people with new opportunities in life. I found the idea of the “marketplace is a democracy” by John Perkins very insightful. Every time we purchase something, we have the ability to send a message. We can support those brands or products that are working towards a more sustainable life by purchasing them as opposed to the other products. As stated in the article, every time we purchase something, we vote, so let’s vote for sustainability.

  6. Lately, it seems as though people are beginning to see the importance of sustainability, not just from an environmental standpoint, but also a humanitarian. It is extremely important to begin to do business from a CSR prospective. As Raphael Bemporad explained, “Society is yearning for a new way to do business.” I think this statement holds truth and power. Imagine a world that actually does, as he suggests, “heal together,” business would be more then the bottom line. I think that is what people are looking for, a company that cares about them and not just their money. When in business you are thought to be cut throat and money hungry, but there are many companies that do not feel or act in this manner. Those companies seem to get lost to the big bad business that sees press time. If consumers heard more stories about companies that are becoming more sustainable it would put pressure on those companies who lack that respect for our children’s future.

    As the world begins to move forward towards sustainability and a corporately conscious environment it becomes attainable to make a difference. As a December graduate I think it is crucial I work for a company like Stella McCartney, who is moving in the direction. This is the future at our present and we have the ability to take the opportunities to change it.

  7. Going Green is something that has really caught wind within the past couple of years. Growing up, my parents were very eco-conscious. They still recycle and my mom even has two compost bins for her garden. So I knew very early on that I should recycle my water bottle, instead of throwing it away. The Stories About Stuff article particularly caught my eye, and when I went to the website I was surprised to learn about all the harmful chemicals in cosmetics. As an avid cosmetics (mainly make-up) user, I was shocked to learn that some of the products I use could have chemicals that could cause cancer. I mean, I knew that not all the ingredients in my MAC lipstick weren’t the best for me, but cancer? I wasn’t expecting that. I really loved how the website not only sheds light on the harmful things, but also gives us tools, such as websites and links, to help us check and make sure that what we are buying is safe. It’s something that as women we can do to encourage our own safety and health, as well as the health of the environment.

  8. The Story of Stuff is one of the most interesting environmental-themed online movies I ever seem. Annie Leonard mentions that customers have to awareness about consumption; we must consume what is really necessary! This is not only good to the environment but also good for our own personal finance. Example: “the story of bottled of water” which explained how did manufacture demand affect Americans to buy more than half a billion bottles of water every week when it already flows from the tap almost for free. Sustainability can remind people to endure, the very ways in which we define and measure value and progress. I think it must be a big challenge, and not just for business and economics, but also our society, culture, technology and behavior of people.
    On the other hand, Bill McKibben, Co-Founder of 350.Org explained so well about environmental change, such as the climate has been increased 2 degree throughout the 16 years. And his quote, “The decisions we make now will determine what life is like for 10 billion people, the next 30 and 40 billion to follow and all of creation.” is the most impact me. So we have to preserve our planet, by reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, such as produce less trash (use filter bottle to fill tap water instead of buying a bottled water.) and recycle more!

  9. It’s funny how the whole “go green” rage happened a few years ago but it is only until recently that people are taking it seriously. I think it has a lot to do with Hurricane Sandy and the physical “proof” that we need to take action.
    This article also suggests another trend I’ve noticed which is how everyone wants to fix the world somehow, make a difference and give back for a sense of purpose.

    I’m glad all the businesses/organizations you listed address the need for social change and the importance of environmental impact.

    The Story of Stuff was particularly interesting in that it investigates the part of the process not a lot of people dare to uncover. It’s like but after the fact.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts/for this article- I think everyone needs to be more mindful about the consequences of their actions big or small. In business and life its important to consider the moral and environmental implications of our fast paced lives to create a sustainable future

  10. The sustainable movement all over the world is becoming increasingly popular as people begin to realize its importance. People certainly do have purchasing power with every item they elect to buy or not to buy as John Perkins describes. If people start demanding greener products, vendors will respond with more and more of those environment friendly products. For example, the bottled water industry is experiencing a decrease in sales since the news spread about our current pollution crisis. People need to be educated to find out the real dangers and problems with buying certain products. After watching the “Story of Bottled Water” I have become aware of the toxic lifestyle and know better. Global awareness is exponentially trending, and it’s because of consumers new choices in green products.

  11. This article was very interesting to me because I realized that I was the one who is unaware of sustainability. There are many eco-friendly product companies and I can easily see their activities nowadays than before. However, even though I understand that we need to something for the earth, I really didn’t do anything for it. After watching “Story of the bottled water,” I reflect on myself about using bottled water without any thoughts. Although the plastic bottle can be recycled, it is predictable that using tab water would be much more helpful for the environment. I’m so glad that I became mindful about the sustainability now after go through the articles here. I think the articles are really helpful, and they providing useful and important information about the global consumption. Now I can help for the world by recycling, using less bottled water, and buying eco-friendly products.

  12. This piece is very interesting. It was interesting to learn about these individuals that are very involved in making the world a better and sustainable place. I also think that John Perkins makes an excellent point when he mentions that “Every time you purchase or not purchase something, you vote, you cast a ballot; I don’t know what your passions are but you have talents to create a sustainable, just and peaceful world…you have the power.” It is up to individuals that live on the earth to decide the future of the world. There are many objects that are used and then disposed of and they create more waste. There are many ways that these objects could be reused and recycled and individuals either don’t care or aren’t correctly educated about how they can make a change.
    There are so many organizations that support the sustainable movement and are trying to make changes starting by their own companies. Eco friendly is a new “trend” now and it seems that everyone is catching on to this trend and it is actually helping in many ways. Hopefully more individuals can become more conscious about the small changes they can make in order to help the environment.

  13. The reading on sustainability was interesting to me. I have always know what it meant and what companies that participated in it where trying to achieve, but I had never read an article on the subject that had so much information contributed by so many large figures in the industry.
    I personally liked what Bill McKibben talked about. Stating that “society is facing a deep moral challenge”, and that “The decisions we make now will determine what life is like for 10 billion people, the next 30 and 40 billion to follow and all of creation”. When putting it that way, one can really grasp the monumental scale of the sustainability subject. Mr. McKibben also went on to talk about how a person or companies purchasing power is the greatest force of change. If the market demanded sustainability at all levels of the industry, manufacturers would have no choice but to adhere because the market demanded it.
    I gain a good prospective from the reading. The more I read the more I believed that sustainability is not a new trend, but a key part of the industry that will continue to grow year to year.

  14. This article shows the roots and true meaning of sustainability. Sustainability means the capacity to support maintain or endure as Wikipedia presents it. Viewing it from a deeper sense; it extends to not only to a business aspect but also to maintaining that human element that is so important for our success and the success of our future generations to come. Ethics, integrity, care for one another,reducing inefficiencies and waste,and being conscious of the impacts our decisions make is key to our survival, happiness, and peace.

  15. Besides being intresting the piece is very informative. I went to the Story of Stuff web page and watched the short film about the story of cosmetics and the story of bottle water. I am the type of girl who wears cosmetics every day and I have said in the past that being a college student my only luxury is bottled water. Do i think its cleaner or safer to drink? No. I simply perfer the taste.

    As for the piece on cosmetics, I knew that there was lead and other chemicals in them. Its actually quite disturbing. the hypocrasy of Este Laudder selling products for breast cancer research yet there products may potienatly cause cancer.

    Buyer beware!!!

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