Last month I attended a green expo in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. It was fun and there were a lot of interesting people to share stories, peddle eco-wares, and wax prolific on everything organic, local, and carbon neutral. One of the booths at the event was We Add Up.
We Add Up has a sharp design aesthetic with modern T-shirts, totes, and recycled water bottles denoting the message that we do, indeed, add up. With a number on each item, a purchase actually adds one to the count of folks who have chosen to become, as founder Jill Palermo explains, “ambassadors of the environmental message – helping to spur conversation and educate others about climate change.”
One of the initiatives We Add Up has created is having school children sell their products, instead of Girl Scout Cookies or People Magazine. This has helped to get children involved, to feel they are a part of something productive and making a difference. Being the jaded, eco-savvy, anti-consumptive consumer that I am, my initial response upon seeing the shirts was “hmmm… been there, done that, got the T-shirt?”
Is this another way to spend money so people can quell environmental guilt and appear to be concerned or making a difference? According to Palermo, the founder, the company is working to put its money where its mouth is.
We just introduced three new T-shirts to our line, which were suggestions from the public – PLANT TREES, COMPOST and VEGAN. The PLANT TREES shirt is very special because we have joined forces with Sustainable Harvest International. With every purchase, SHI will plant 10 trees in the Central American rainforest. As you probably know, trees in the equatorial latitude are much more efficient at absorbing and sequestering CO2 from the atmosphere than trees in northern latitudes, making reforestation in Central America imperative to ending global warming.
WE ADD UP is a member of 1% for the Planet. We donate 1% of sales or 10% of profits, whichever is greater. In addition, the sale of the “Plant Trees” tee directly contributes to creating more carbon sinks, as 10 trees are planted for each purchase. As a taste of what is to come with WE ADD UP, we are currently working to create exciting partnerships for each of our tee actions. We are seeking non-profits who are leaders in developing solutions to the action the tee promotes. And, $3 from the sale of each shirt will be donated to that chosen non-profit.
I know that we are not going to change the world by simply buying organic hair conditioner and carrying a canvas bag to Whole Foods. I think it is important to be mindful of what we consume and to choose wisely, but truth be told, if we see what is happening, and the speed at which it is occuring, buying a “green” T-shirt is not going to have a massive impact.
However, what about the message We Add Up is trying to convey? Can we act as ambassadors for environmentalism? Isn’t it better to have children selling eco-friendly T’s that have a message and teach them about what is happening with regard to climate change, instead of sending them door to door with boxes of lousy commercial frankenfood chocolate bars?
Is it not productive to have people see the words “buy local” or “recycle” or “unplug?” When I see these words, even on someone’s T-shirt, it does remind me that whatever trivial issues are dominating in the moment are nothing compared to a bigger, more important cause that is always calling. Acting on behalf of the earth, on any level, can instigate thought, dialogue and change. We Add Up, in the words of Al Gore, “…is a tremendous marketing tool to promote the important message about climate change.”