Earth Day this year is different for me. I have a whole new layer of appreciation and scrutiny about my personal, and our collective relationship to the planet. No, not just because of the Pandemic™, but because I’m about to have my first child.
After years of planning… and trying… my wife is pregnant! And, probably by the time this piece is published, our child will have arrived: a brand new human embarking on a whole new journey, as are my wife and I.
I’ve had my share of hearing, “Your life will change forever,” and “get ready for the sleepless nights,” and so on. And, as much as those things will be true, the transformation happening inside myself as I take on a new role as parent is real. Through this process I’ve uncovered that we humans can undergo a lot of transformation, adaptation, and preparation, without intrinsically changing the core of who we are.
Across my experiences in my role in the industry, folks have historically been pretty pumped to do good for the planet. Enthusiasm hasn’t ever been lacking.
Where our motivations fail us is where we think we have to change who we are; how we live; our quality of life or desire for convenience. While I have many thoughts on convenience, we don’t actually have to forego it, though we do have to change our view on it.
This has me thinking about how we transform our relationship to our (only) planet without changing who we are. Because I think that is the only way forward.
We’ve gone too long thinking we need to return to nature, or work with nature, or even mimic nature, without realizing we ARE nature. And, as woo-woo as this can sound, I do fundamentally believe that this mindset shift will start to fuel meaningful change in our relationship to Earth. It is when we extract ourselves; see ourselves as ‘other,’ that we take a diluted and censored view of how we should live and interact with our surroundings. This view is how we have ended up… here.
We at Pearlfisher approach sustainability through three lenses: Culture, Behavior and Technology. This holistic approach encompasses the unique combination of characteristics that make us human, along with how we live in the world, inclusive of our relationship to Earth.
What’s inspiring to me is the brands we’re working with and how they’re aiming to help us change our relationship with Earth, in some cases without saying that so specifically.
We know our population continues to grow exponentially (my personal contribution recorded above), and we already surpass realistically what the Earth can provide in terms of food and other resources in a year. It’s called Earth Overshoot Day, and last year’s day was July 29, 2021. This means by that date, we’d used up all the planet has to offer for the year, or in other words, the biocapacity of Earth. We need 1.7 Earths to sustain our population currently.
So, we know we need to shift how we provide these resources. An obviously large factor here is food and food production. But, really, it’s everything we produce, purchase and consume. From agriculture and beyond— how do we provide enough resources for our ever-growing population around the world?
By calling attention to ethical treatment of animals: Consider Pastures, a new egg brand we helped create with Pete & Gerry’s, stands for true pasture-raised chickens and eggs. En route to telling the story for consumers, we designed a package unique to the egg category— one that differentiates from the usual commoditized carton-look. Built from a flat sheet of paper, like the egg cartons from the early 20th century, it looks more like a fashion statement than just a dozen eggs. Ethical agriculture is worth paying more for, and the brand reassures us of that.
Taking things a step further, by supporting our diet of meat without the animals: Upside Foods, formerly known as Memphis Meats, are award-winning leaders in cell-cultivated meat, poultry and seafood. This California food tech company believes that we shouldn’t have to choose between the meat we love and a thriving planet, as it redefines the food system and revolutionizes the way people can still eat real meat.
From one over-consumed sustenance source to another, coffee is one of the world’s most widely consumed drinks, with over 1 billion cups drank daily. Coffee is often grown as a massive monocrop and it’s predicted that 50% of the land used to grow coffee beans will be unsuitable by 2050. Which is why Compound Foods are finding ways to produce it via technology— the world’s first sustainable beanless coffee. Its eco-friendly and lab-grown, beanless brew that tastes, looks and smells like the coffee we all love without the negative environmental impact. Compound Food’s mission is not to replace coffee. Instead, it aims to create a sustainable alternative that will help preserve the very environment that enables coffee to grow.
There is no silver bullet answer for living more sustainably, both for us individually, as well as the collective. There are, and must be, myriad approaches. And, as we track the momentum of technology, speeding quickly past any shifts we can make in our own behavior, we lean into that technology to power our future. We also should acknowledge that working any way but holistically will take us down the wrong path and back to where we already are. So, we cannot lose track of the part we play in nature, and how much we do need to shift our own behavior, our outlook and our relationship to Earth. But, we must remember that this does not necessarily require us changing who we are. Changing our relationships should be seen as becoming more of ourselves versus forcing ourselves into a template in which we don’t fit, or templates that might work against us. We are nature.
Happy Earth Day, everyone!