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Joel Makower and Alex Steffen: How Good Is Good Enough?

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Sustainability is like teenage sex, says Joel Makower, the fantastic Compostmodern moderator (Compostmoderator?). “Everybody says they’re doing it but no one really is. And those who are doing it aren’t doing it very well.”

In all seriousness, says Makower, who has been greenblogging at GreenBiz before it was called ‘green’ or ‘blogging,’ we don’t have an answer for a simple question: How good is good enough? Is what we’re doing really making a difference? Is this the best it can be? We have no way of knowing any of that. And this is the question we should try to find an answer to today.

Alex Steffen of Worldchanging, gave a few suggestions (and might we mention we met the delightful Sarah Rich last night, who edited the Worldchanging book). Steffen switched up his presentation a little bit from the last time we saw him in Denver. After a nice set up about the horrific consumer behavior of Americans (and once again, yes, we really are the problem, since we are the most bloated consumer culture on the planet), he revealed that the real problem is that Americans are just trained to want this luxurious upper middle class lifestyle. And not just a private jet, says Steffen, but a plasma-screened entertainment center with cushy ergonomic chairs on that private jet.

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What we really need to aspire to a different kind of upper middle class lifestyle that cuts our impact by 80%. Heck, why not try for 90%? The two best things you can do? Don’t go so many places in a car to get things (or don’t have a car, or share one), and know the stories about how your things get to you (or share those things, too). You might really have to do some research but the answer is as simple as making a better map of your neighborhood, or finding the story behind your cafe-bought coffee cup. But those actions will ultimately make you infinitely more happy than dreaming of your flying home theater.

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