“The wealth of the nation is its air, water, soil, forests, minerals, rivers, lakes, oceans, scenic beauty, wildlife habitats and biodiversity…
that’s all there is. That’s the whole economy. That’s where all the economic activity and jobs come from. These biological systems are the sustaining wealth of the world.” – Gaylord Nelson, activist, politician and founder of Earth Day
When we think about the economics of a healthy and just planet, we have to understand key concepts. The terms “capital” and “value” typically have one association: money. But a truer reflection of the market would include natural capital. Natural capital is the “world’s stock” of natural assets which include geology, soil, air, water, and all living things. The economy relies heavily on natural capital, yet all too often, the economy is still viewed and treated as separate from the environment.
Unfortunately, the current market system subsidizes environmentally-destructive practices and restricts ethics and conservation efforts in business. Concepts like true cost accounting address this by looking at impacts on the environment, climate, biodiversity, and public health when determining an item’s cost. This short film from Lexicon of Sustainability quickly introduces the concept.
Have you ever heard of a circular economy? Right now, we are mostly functioning within a linear model: create, use, then dispose of products. This causes staggering amounts of pollution, emits vast quantities of greenhouse gases, and necessitates unsustainable natural resource extraction. Conversely, circular economies have three core principles: designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems. A 2019 UN study found that switching to a circular economy will be a critical part of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. Watch today’s TED talk to learn more!
In the United States, a bold plan of action to address climate change and racial inequities has been introduced, which involves completely reinventing the American economy. Pioneered by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey, the Green New Deal calls for drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions, creating high-paying jobs, and ensuring that clean air and water are available to all. It’s an ambitious plan that would require a 10 year mobilization and transformation of the entire economy, but supporters of the Green New Deal point out that failure to reach these goals would have catastrophic consequences.
While a worldwide transition to a sustainable economy is vital, each individual choice plays a role in the larger system. Everything we buy requires natural resources: trees, water, coal, minerals, all. Our dollar has more power over the fate of our planet than we may believe. Every choice matters, so let’s be conscious consumers! Making decisions that have a net positive impact on the planet takes many forms:
Conservation. First and foremost, buy fewer things. Consuming less means conserving natural resources and preserving them for generations to come. Invest in quality items that will last, actually saving money over time. When something breaks, try fixing it before tossing and always repurpose or upcycle “trash” into something useful! Remember, less is more, especially when supporting the planet.
Use your dollar. Wherever possible, purchase ethically and sustainably-made products. There are plenty of businesses working to create quality products with global benefit. Many responsible businesses elect to become Certified B Corporations or 1% for the Planet members — or both! To see these principles in action, check out our partner and certified B Corporation, Everyone, which prioritizes people, planet, and profit: the triple bottom line. 1% for the Planet inspires businesses and individuals to support environmental nonprofits through membership and everyday actions. Businesses commit to giving back 1% of annual revenue (not profits, but total sales) directly to environmental nonprofits. Individuals can become members too, in addition to taking simple everyday actions. Yvon Chouinard, co-founder of 1% for the Planet and Patagonia, describes membership like this: “It’s a cost of doing business on this planet. It’s not philanthropy— it’s an absolute necessity for us living on this planet. It’s the opposite of doing nothing.”
Keep it local. Local spending is the lifeblood of a local economy; it keeps neighbors employed, taxes paid, businesses open, and communities alive. In times of financial hardship, like right now, many local businesses are in danger of closing for good, while most large corporations will manage to survive. Supporting local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic bolsters community resilience.
Corporations play a huge role in perpetuating climate change and injustice. In fact, only about 90 companies are responsible for about two-thirds of total carbon emissions. The responsibility to effect change does not solely rest on individuals. However, if we use less, consume less, reuse, shift behavior, and pressure businesses to act, we will see how individual action leads to sizable collective impact. Prioritizing sustainability in daily life is possible with planning, intention and smart budgeting.
Thousands of corporations and businesses with significant power to make a difference are using for-profit enterprises for positive global impact. One way businesses are committing to reducing inequality, lowering levels of poverty, working toward a healthier environment, strengthening communities, and creating more high quality jobs with dignity and purpose is by becoming a Certified B Corporation. B Corps use profit and growth to yield positive impact for people and the environment, as well as the economy — commonly referred to as triple bottom line.
To get started, watch these videos here and here to help understand the positive impact businesses can have. Then browse the B Corp website and 1% for the Planet directories to become familiar with companies that stand for change.
Research one B Corp or 1% for the Planet member. Better yet, see if you can find a local “B-1”, both certified B Corporation and 1% for the Planet member! How does that business integrate a triple bottom line into the business model? Share at least two ways in which it benefits people, planet, and the economy.
Post about your learnings on Instagram, encouraging others to look up and seek out B Corps and 1% for the Planet members. Raise awareness and be sure to tag @TurningGreenOrg, @1PercentFTP and @BCorporation in your post with #PGC2020.
Upload a PDF Document with your responses and a screenshot of your social media post. Include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.
The Green New Deal represents a more sustainable, just future for the United States, one both people and planet deserve. It stands for intersectional environmentalism, which we have discussed over the course of PGC, like creating accessible, high-paying jobs in clean energy and ensuring clean air, water, and healthy food are protected basic human rights. But not everyone is on board. Critics claim the Green New Deal will cost trillions of dollars that should be used for other things, and that moving away from fossil fuels could have catastrophic consequences. The plan is not perfect, but a vital step for our country in reducing major, negative contributions to the climate crisis and addressing dire environmental realities.
First, watch this video explaining the basics of the Green New Deal. If you live outside of the US, research if your country has a similar, major climate action plan in the works. What are its most important components? Is there anything you would like to see added or removed? What issues do you think should be addressed first?
Next, write a letter to your elected officials urging them to enact a climate action plan. Tell them why we need a Green New Deal (or equivalent) now and highlight its importance to you and which areas of focus resonate most and why.
Post a PDF, screenshot, graphical representation or snippet from your letter on Instagram with a brief caption. Tag the elected officials to which it is addressed, as well as @TurningGreenOrg and #PGC2020. If you reference the Green New Deal, tag @AOC and @EdMarkey with #GreenNewDeal too!
Upload a PDF Document with your letter and a screenshot of your social media post. Include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.
“The surest path to safe streets and peaceful communities is not more police and prisons, but ecologically sound economic development. And that same path can lift us to a new, green economy – one with the power to lift people out of poverty while respecting and repairing the environment.” — Van Jones, CNN Host and Contributor, CEO of Reform Alliance, and Founder of The Dream Corps
The World Economic Forum is an international organization that engages leaders from around the world to shape global, regional, and industry agendas. Every year, WEF hosts a summit to address the most pressing economic issues with a diverse array of leading academics, politicians, businesses, and youth leaders.
Watch a session from the 2020 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, hosted last January in Switzerland. Suggestions to choose from are: “Forging a Sustainable Path towards a Common Future,” “Averting a Climate Apocalypse,” or “Striking a Green ‘New Deal,’” though feel free to select any climate-related session of interest.
Now, reflect on the session you watched.
Present your findings in a creative way of your choosing. Post the engaging visual with a call to action around climate on Instagram, tagging @TurningGreenOrg and #PGC2020, as well as any speakers or organizations that you reference.
Upload a PDF Document with your visual, call to action and a screenshot of your social media post. Include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.
Up to 10 Greener and 10 Greenest outstanding submissions will be selected as winners.
Each Greener Winner will receive:
Each Greenest Winner will receive: