Sunday I did what all us “environmental types” are meant to do. Like a salmon heading back to the home stream to spawn, battling Orcas, fish nets and hooks, rapids, starvation, bears, all just to squirt in some gravel and drop dead of exhaustion. I went to EPIC Vancouver
A “Sustainable Living Expo”. A consumer fair promoting the “Green Lifestyle”. An event that bills itself as “The largest sustainable lifestyle show and eco-marketplace in Vancouver, Western Canada”. The entire thing is mind-bending.
But to maintian my eco-conscious credibility, I must go. Who can say to have supped from the well of sustainability if they have not embraced the EPIC lifestyle show? I needed to try it out, see what the latest thing in Green Living is, to see if I am keeping up with the Jonses in my pursuit of the perfect Green Lifestyle.
Right off the bat, the first two booths at the entrance are Toyota (the Worlds #1 automobile manufacturer) and Post Media (The Canwest print media spinoff that brings us the Sun, the Province, and the National Post). This is not starting well. I may not totally understand the whole “sustainability lifestyle”, but I’m pretty surprised to learn it includes building 8.5 million cars a year and turning dead trees into daily pro-business propaganda sheets.
But you aren’t going to hear me say anything negative about it, seeing as how just by walking near their products, I have apparently given Toyota “all necessary rights in perpetuity [to]…the worldwide use of [my] image, voice and/or comments, as is or as may be edited, in any media whatsoever now and hereinafter…yadda yadda yadda…”
Somehow, their wishing for my enjoyment is a little hollow after that legal beating…
Toyota and Canwest aren’t the only big companies greenwashing their way through EPIC. After all what is more sustainable than a toilet brush holder made of wood and cotton towels in pleasing earth tones?
I almost felt sorry the guys who actually had good ideas:
This small start-up made a washable re-useable food wrapping product using fabric and bees wax. A sort of re-usable but biodegradable and completely sustainable Saran Wrap. It was actually a good idea, but how can he compete with a $150,000 zillion-mile-an-hour electric car?
Or even the dude making seatbelts out of seatbelts?
I mean not using saran wrap might be sustainable, but it doesn’t really fit the lifestyle, does it? A seatbelt purse tells the world you recycle, it is a “cars suck” bumper sticker for your bike that you don’t even need a bike for.
Again, I’m no expert, but my accountant brother tells me multi-level marketing is, inevitably, not sustainable.
The most sustainable thing I saw at the whole show was the row of Chiropractors, an “alternative health care modality” that actually cures nothing and has no demonstrable therapeutic value. It is, by definition, a sustainable industry because no Chiropractor ever said to a customer “this will be our last session: you are cured!”
Despondent with my inability to grasp the green consumer lifestyle, my inability to geti n touch with the sustainability style of my generation, I finally stumbled upon a few businesses with products I could believe in. These products, although no more sustainable than cars or newspapers or Astroturf, had the power, if applied liberally enough, to wipe away all my concerns that I was not keeping up with the true sustainability lifestyle consumers who were going to prevent our consumer driven collapse by creative purchasing.
After a couple of hours at the booths, sipping sample after sample from my compostable plastic sample cup, I walked out of there with a strange rumbling in my gut. I was actually a little nauseous. Then it occurred to me, I may have been in the wrong conference. There were, after all, two going on at the same time at the Convention Centre: