Heartland: The Future: A Perfect Fit

| May - June 2008

As a college freshman, Tom Szaky decided to package worm poop in recycled soda bottles and sell it as plant fertilizer. Just a few years after he dropped out of Princeton to pursue his dream, it’s available at Target, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and other retailers. He’s gone on to develop an array of products made out of what we throw away (Christmas stockings fashioned from old clothes, ornaments cut from discarded CDs, even a dress designed entirely out of used fruit drink pouches). For every other species on the planet, waste is a resource, a part of life’s cycle. Szaky’s work helps align humans with the rest of creation.

Laurie Brown, ahead of her time 17 years ago when she opened the nation’s second all-green store in Minneapolis, is right on time with the patents she currently holds for a machine that reads bar codes on bottles, then automatically refills them. If the device catches on, it could significantly reduce the amount of plastic in our landfills and save energy that’s typically used to ship water-based products, such as household cleansers and personal care products, around the globe.

Macalester College student Timothy DenHerder-Thomas has assembled a national network of advisers to invent a process to help homeowners bid out energy improvements together, as if collectively they were a business. This will help keep costs down and, thanks to the cooperative model they will use to finance the program, investors will be paid out of the energy savings.

What these three share, in addition to passion, a deep sense of purpose, and having me as an active fan (I’m an investor in Laurie’s company and serve on Timothy’s steering committee), is that I also consider them pioneers of Futurefit.™

Futurefit is an expression I plucked out of the ether after exploring how to be more responsible for the eco-footprint of my largish, leaky house. Retrofit, the term du jour in many makeover conversations, has the sound and feel of a Band-Aid fix for a systemic failure. So, in the spirit of committing to real change, I decided to trademark Futurefit.

Not long after coming up with the idea, I took a trip to Ecuador with my 22-year-old son Oliver. We spent time deep in the jungle with Achuar guides and naturalist translators, observing the elegant and complex interactions of species. High in the Andes, we talked about the rewriting of the Ecuadorian constitution, which many hope will be drafted to protect the rights of nature and of indigenous peoples, as well as guard against the ravages of corporate favoritism.

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