July 2007

Josh Dorfman

The environmental truth made just a little more convenient
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If self-proclaimed lazy environmentalist Josh Dorfman isn’t the Earth-friendly being of the future, he certainly is the eco-guy of the moment. Through his blog, his radio show (on LIME Radio and Sirius) and now his book all sharing the Lazy Environmentalist tag Dorfman aims to show that you don’t have to give up life’s pleasures in order to save the planet. He favors a friendlier approach, avoiding gloom and doom predictions and applying Madison Avenue techniques to the message instead. You have to understand human emotions, how we make decisions, Dorfman says over lunch at a Nashville eatery. Whatever the hooks are, that’s what still works. For Dorfman, that means adding aesthetics and convenience to the environmental equation, as he does in his new book, The Lazy Environmentalist: Your Guide to Easy, Stylish, Green Living, a compendium of ideas, suppliers and options that take reusing, reducing and recycling to a whole new level.

In the book’s 272 pages (which are printed on 100 percent post-consumer waste, as one would expect), Dorfman discusses the clever refashioning of leather miniskirts into shoulder bags; using organic, as opposed to conventionally grown, cotton, the latter being one of the most heavily sprayed crops in the world ; and making bamboo flooring selections. The good news for people who want to live green, but who may not have or want to spend a lot of, well, green, is that national chains and manufacturers Macy’s, Wal-Mart, Levi’s and Nike among them are increasingly turning to these sorts of materials.

Dorfman is a smart, funny guy with whom one could easily discuss any- and everything. However, one might also come away wondering how seriously he takes saving the planet. It was just this sort of questioning of Dorfman’s environmental cred that led to the launching of the entire Lazy Environmentalist enterprise.

You see, he wasn’t brought up sans electricity and red meat by hippie parents, though he jokes about throwing Saturday bake sales as a child in honor of his family’s cause of the day. And, OK, there was the time he was kicked off a kibbutz after only a week for organizing a labor protest. But, he also has a solid business background and his environmental epiphany came while he was selling bicycle locks in China (he had to be quite the salesman since, as he says, the locks were a little more expensive than the bikes ). Contemplating the Chinese fascination with American lifestyles, Dorfman says he saw a connection between a billion bikes and a billion cars . . . and starting thinking about, not necessarily a doomsday scenario, but about quality of life. Fast-forward a few years after Dorfman earned an M.B.

A. in international business; worked in Geneva, Paris and Hong Kong; took a stab at screenwriting in Los Angeles and dropped out of a Ph.

D. program in D.C. and he had figured out a way to combine his business acumen and his growing concern for the planet. The solution was Vivavi, a furniture and home-furnishings company launched in 2003 and whose motto, Live Modern + Tread Lightly reflects the philosophy of greener living through good design.

Along with water-conserving bathroom fixtures, paints low in VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) and electric cars the products Dorfman talks about in The Lazy Environmentalist he also praises Method’s all-purpose cleaners. It’s the best-looking cleaning product ever and it’s cheap, he says. It’s also available in places like Target and Costco. I love that product for all those reasons. He gets practically rhapsodic talking about TerraCycle organic plant food. Fast-food waste is fed to worms, the worms poop it out, then it’s packaged in soda bottles, he explains. Everything is recycled it’s waste and it’s packaged in waste. How could anyone question the commitment of someone who gets so excited about worm poop (especially while eating lunch)? Well, one of Dorfman’s first Vivavi employees did. He says she was almost hyperventilating when she tearfully asked him whether he truly was an environmentalist. You don’t talk like an environmentalist, you don’t act like an environmentalist, he quotes her as saying. Dorfman mulled things over and then blogged about how he didn’t mind saving the planet, but he wasn’t going to give up long, hot showers. The blog led to an offer for an Internet radio show, which led to a contract with Sirius. Now he’s bringing his laidback environmental platform My voice is: I’m your pal, man; I’m with you, he says to a new medium. Whatever the medium, his focus is the same, concentrating on what people are willing to do to take better care of the planet and mixing in a little style.

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