We need to find a more sensible appoach to economics — call it ECOmonics — that doesn’t require infinite growth on a finite planet. For Earth’s sake and our sake, we need to get to 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Quickly. Many of us, either as conserving customers or ecopreneurs, are already well on our way to helping make it so.
We’re reaching a point where the “More, Bigger, Faster” mode of economic activity — often at complete odds with social justice and ecological realities of a finite Earth system — must change. It is changing, by ecopreneurs who are determined NOT to destroy the planet or exploit people in the process. Like us, many green business owners are small sizing our operations to provide optimal control over our impacts. An egg is still an egg, one of the most complete forms of protein you can fry up in a pan, regardless of its size.
Our present growth-obsessed, global, capitalistic economic “story” seems broken when 5-percent of the world’s people uses 25-percent of its resources, produces 40-percent of the waste and, interestingly on the social side, houses 25-percent of the prison population.
All the fancy iPhones in the world (a cool innovation) are meaningless when your home floats away down a river that experienced 200-year flood-events twice in the last year, like in parts of Wisconsin where we have a property where we practice silviculture, or sustainable forestry, in partnership with the Kickapoo Woods Cooperative. What to do with those phones after they wear out should be a vexing problem solved before they come to market. That’s the way an ecopreneur might approach their new product. Cradle to cradle considerations, or at least more thought given to the longevity of a product’s life, and a triple bottom line approach to business are the basic DNA of sustainable businesses.
Many of the ecopreneurs with whom we met or interviewed for ECOpreneuring are generating revenues to support their mission to make the world a better place, not making it the purpose of the business to earn generous profits (for themselves or a few shareholders). On a finite Earth, ecopreneurial businesses search for when there’s enough revenues to provide a livelihood that doesn’t steal from future generations of all life — be it clean water, air, open greenspace existing as a viable and healthy ecological system.
Infinite growth is a story that’s time has come to an end. Most ecopreneurs recognize this, and are doing something about it, often on local — NOT global — levels. Many are creating placed-based enterprises that restore living systems and offer a sense of ecologically and socially responsible permanence, among the hallmarks of sustainability. Their businesses build community, not market share. They measure the success of their enterprise based on Return on Environment, not just Return on Investment — and its ability to provide a quality of life for its owners and employees.
Our version of ECOnomics is for those who want out of the cubicle today, embarking on a new course in a different economy that’s less about stuff and more about living well while doing something you’re passionate about without destroying the planet in the process. That’s a key difference between an ecopreneur and entrepreneur. You may even escape the financial sector’s stranglehold on your life — like we did.
Is anyone else struggling with the over-arching “get bigger” and “scale up” approach to entrepreneurship in an economy where economic growth dominates the discourse?
How have you crafted a livelihood in the ECOnomy?