Day 24: Can you afford to care?July 8, 2012 1:00 am Leave your thoughts
I’m writing this blog a long way from the bus, on my couch at home in Ohio. My break from the bus is a result of a much needed surgery on my knee; regardless of this inconvenience, I was still able to enjoy the vibrant city of Austin, TX with the crew. We stayed at the home of a Dartmouth alum, Greg Eden, and his wife Dorothy. It quickly became evident that we were in good hands when we arrived late at night to their house, and Dorothy proceeded to cook us pasta. The next day we parked near Barton Springs pool and met with Jimmy Flores and the gang from VOS Flips (link), a recyclable flip flop brand.
The mission of VOS is to utilize the natural rubber industry in Guatemala to support better living. Plantation workers receive free healthcare and education for their labor, and consumers are provided with an eco-friendly product that’s affordable. I asked Jimmy about the roots of the business. He explained to me that they wanted to take up a stake of the rubber industry in Guatemala in such a way that did both the locals and the environment well. The majority of the industry is based on tire production, and workers usually receive few to zero benefits. With the production of recyclable flip flops, VOS found a market for natural rubber that had much less environmental impact and one that would be worker-friendly.
Affordability is a huge concern for those at VOS, and this concern is reflected in the flips’ low price. Conversations that day had me thinking about the argument that living sustainably is too expensive for many people. The cheapest foods with enough calories to feel satiated, for instance, are the processed foods found at Wal-Mart and Kmart. Who buys the tiles made from recycled glass bottles when the oil-derived ceramics are exponentially cheaper? These scenarios are discouraging to people like us on the bus, who are always encouraging people to be mindful consumers. But we have to remind ourselves that consuming should not be given as much attention as reusing and prolonging the life span of the things that we already have. Consumption in any form does no good for the sake of our planet.
After our long day with VOS, we returned to the Eden’s and enjoyed a superb Texas-style barbecue. How sustainable of us, right? Wrong—Dorothy outfitted the barbecue with vegan options. Only on the bus…
I miss you bus,