The Lazy Environmentalist is suddenly everywhere. You may have heard Josh Dorfman when he hosted a daily show on Sirius Radio or from his latest book, "The Lazy Environmentalist on a Budget: Save Money, Save Time, Save the Planet" but now he's coming to television. Dorfman is bringing his know-how about being green while not completely changing your life in "The Lazy Environmentalist" series, which airs Tuesday nights on The Sundance Channel. Our Jim Halterman talked to Dorfman about how the show came about, his philosophy on being green and how the US is doing compared to the rest of the world in the fight to be environmentally strong.
Jim Halterman: How did the idea of "The Lazy Environmentalist" get started?
Josh Dorfman: I started a green furniture company down in Washington, DC in 2003 [and later] was moving the company to New York City. I had one employee at the time who was my office manager, my admin, bookkeeper, everything and she helped me pack up my minivan to move the company and it was our last day working together. She was clearly nervous in the passenger seat and I asked, "Are you alright?" and she said "Look, Josh, I have to ask you something and I have to get this off my chest. I couldn't ask when you were my boss but now you're not my boss anymore so I really need to ask you something." So I immediately thought, "This is awesome. She's attracted to me. I'm not her boss anymore. This is great." So I'm like "Let's talk about it" and she says, "Are you really an environmentalist?" So she's not attracted to me in the slightest. She said "You're always in the shower... I know you're into this green stuff but you don't act like an environmentalist so what is your deal?" I started to laugh because I knew exactly what she meant. Two days later I wrote a blog entry on my furniture site and it was titled "The Lazy Environmentalist." Global warming is real, I care and I want it solved but I do my best thinking in the shower, which is why I take long showers and then I'm probably not going to change my behavior just to be part of the solution, if I'm really honest. I thought, "Let's just be honest. Let's stop having a conversation that's just not grounded in reality with all these things we should do and feel guilty about not doing." So the Lazy Environmentalist was born out of that. Can we find a way for people who take long showers to reduce the impact of that shower or whatever it might be? So that's where it got its start.
JH: How did you come to the Sundance Channel or did they come to you?
JD: I had my Sirius radio show and by 2007 it was live daily so I had this national media presence and then my first book ("The Lazy Environmentalist: Your Guide to Easy, Stylish, Green Living") came out in the Spring of 2007 and I got some nice media attention around that and I think that got me under Sundance's radar. They thought that this is a cool concept that they could make a TV show out of and I had probably enough media experience and was authentically grounded in the green movement that there turned out to be something there.
JH: As far as being green it seems that a lot of people talk the talk but how do you really get them to walk the walk?
JD: What I try to do is I try and find environmental alternatives that are going to appeal to people's self interests. I don't say to people that you need to be green because I care about being green. What I say to people, and this is what we do on our show, and what my philosophy is that you tell me what you need green to be. So, the [professional dog washer in the first episode] says, "I need it to be easy, affordable... " whatever her criteria that she states are. Then, my task is if I can find things that are environmentally friendly but also work for you would you do them? People are like, "Yes, I will do them." Most people want to be a part of the solution they just don't want to go out of their way to do it. The Lazy Environmentalist is very much about just figuring out what moves people. Do they want stuff that is fashionable? Do they want to save money? Do they want convenience? Then I can find choices that do that for them that are also reducing their environmental impact.
JH: In the first episode, you also spend time with a family and how they can become greener and you talk about striving for zero waste. Can you explain that concept?
JD: As it refers to a family and our garbage, it's thinking about can we reduce the amount of trash that is leaving our home and ending up in a landfill? It's a goal to shoot for but if we can just make progress towards it then I think we're doing really well. Which is why on that show, it was about "Let's introduce composting and let's introduce more recycling and let's try to reduce the packaging to try to get at zero waste." It's recognizing that it's an ideal that is very challenging even for environmentalists who are not at all lazy.
JH: You also give the family a compost bin where live worm eat some of the garbage. Since I live in an apartment in New York City, the idea of bringing worms into my small space for composting isn't too appealing. How do city dwellers achieve this?
JD: On one of the future shows we work with a chef and what I actually present to him is an automatic composter that looks like a trash can. You plug in but it uses less energy than a light bulb and of your average compact. It actually does the churning automatically for you, the breaking down, and can be found on www.naturemill.com. That would be one option for apartment dwellers.
JH: On an international scale, where do you think the U.S. falls in terms of being green?
JD: That's such a loaded question. I think, honestly, we're doing poorly. If you spent time in Europe, when you look at the amount of trash that a European family makes versus an American family it's ridiculous. You also think about policies in Europe in terms of things that are very difficult to do in this country. We've got a long way to go and I believe we're just at the beginning of this but there are things that are happening in the U.S. that are not happening anywhere else in the world. In one of the episodes, I go to work with the mayor of a town and, essentially what we're trying to get this mayor to do is sign off on a the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement when towns commit to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2102. It's a cool thing but one of the things that I introduced them to is a company called www.Recyclebank.com that basically says we're going to put one bin in your home and in that bin you can put all your recyclables � you don't have to separate them. Then we'll take a town or a city's recycling charts, retrofit them with a little scanner so when we come to collect that bit every week we'll scan it for, I believe weight, possibly volume, but get a general sense of what's in there. Then it goes to the recycling center to be recycled, and then consumers log on with that barcode to www.RecycleCenter.com, see how much they recycled and then are financially rewarded. "You recycled a $100 worth of stuff so you can go spend that at Best Buy or Starbucks or Whole Foods or whatever." It saves towns money because it costs more to landfill things than to recycle thing for municipalities, in most cases. That kind of company only gets created in America. Something about our entrepreneurial spirit. That's the thing that I think America has to offer to the world. Real creative solutions that can scale up and have major, major positive impact but when you look at laws and policies, the US is very far behind other places around the world.
To learn more about how you can make your life even greener, watch "The Lazy Environmentalist" on The Sundance Channel every Tuesday at 9:00/8:00c or check out www.lazyenvironmentalist.com.