Zem Joaquin, Founder of Ecofabulous.com (Podcast)
TreeHugger: You founded Ecofabulous.com and you work with a lot of companies at the intersection of environmental concerns and the business world. When those two things meet there's inevitably greenwashing. What is the worst case of green washing you've seen lately?
Zem Joaquin: I see it all the time. I try to focus on the positive so I try to ignore a lot of it, though I call them out all the time. I guess that's because I was an editor of magazines where you always focus on the positive. That's kind of what inspired me. I think one of the things that bothers me is really the mistakes made not with good intentions.
For instance, I get a lot of emails from companies saying: "I have this great product, you're going to love it. It's 50 percent recycled polyester and 50 percent organic cotton. Isn't that the most eco-friendly thing you've ever heard of?" That breaks my heart because I know their intention was good.
They're using two products that are really great on their own, but once you put them together it's now a problem. It's going to go straight to landfill because it no longer can be recycled (which polyester can be) and it also can't go back to the earth as the biological nutrients (which even conventional cotton can).
So now you've created a problem rather than a solution. That really bothers me.
One other thing. I got something in the mail to review which was a sweatsuit. It said it was this company's green line and they were really excited about it and though I'd would love it. Turned out it had "up to one percent recycled polyester and conventional cotton." That was their big green move.
To me that was nauseating. I was really, really disappointed. That makes me sad when companies think that a very, very small gesture, which also actually is a negative gesture, is going to excite consumers. It only worries me because the tag has this big green label and what if you didn't read it? What if you didn't read the fine print that says "up to one percent?" Anyway, I found that really disturbing.
TH: You live a very green life. In a lot of ways, through your role as a personality on TV shows, you open up your personal life to the rest of the world as an example. Do you have any guilty pleasures, anything that goes against everything you believe about living green that you want to get off your chest?
Joaquin: I think it's so funny. Everybody wants me to have lots of guilty pleasures. I guess people want to know that everybody has these challenges, even people who spend their entire life focused on environmental issues. Absolutely. Of course I do, just like anybody else. I love clothes. I love really beautiful clothes, and that's a challenge. I don'tt buy non eco-friendly clothes, but I want to at times. Luckily there are more and more options other there.
I fly. Flying is totally hypocritical. I'm flying to Portugal to talk about cork to the world. Yes I'll buy offsets. Is that good enough? Absolutely not. I wish there was a better alternative. It's something we all deal with. We feel bad about it. It definitely impacts our environmental footprint dramatically.
I have a clean diesel car which gets 50 miles to the gallon, which I love. My challenge is I would convert it to biodiesel except that it's very hard to find biodiesel and I'm terrified of running out of gas on the 5 freeway. That's a scary thought to me when I drive to LA.
I deal with all the same challenges that everybody else deals with and definitely have some guilt. But really what I try to do, and I always try to inspire people to do, is not feel guilt. I do the best I can every single day. I make all of my choices consciously, I try to be the best person I can possibly be, I try to inspire other people to do the same, and try to lead by example for my children and my friends and my family.
Yes, I am imperfect but I am trying.