Do you have an interest in becoming more sustainable? We asked Daniel Hartz, a sustainability evangelist and founder of Sustainability Champions to share his insights on why and how we should have a more positive outlook on sustainability initiatives. 

Daniel Hartz Sustainability Champions

Daniel Hartz

Sustainability Champions

Why did you start Sustainability Champions?

I started Sustainability Champions because I wanted to hear positive news about the environment. There are so many people, communities and companies like working hard to solve some of the greatest environmental challenges and I want to find them and share their inspiring stories. I hope Sustainability Champions can be an antidote to the doom and gloom in the news and also a place to encourage more people to take action and be a champion in their own environment.

What do you hope people know and realize about being more sustainable with their resources?

I think the most important thing to realize is that as long as we are conscious about the resources available to us, there is more than enough for people and nature to coexist. Humans are a part of nature, and as such, I believe we need to imitate it. Nature works in cycles and nothing is ever wasted: for example, when a tree loses its leaves, the leaves return to the soil and fertilize the tree.

The Circular Economy is all about imitating this cyclical process with the resources we use and products and services we create. If we transform all industries to a circular model, I believe that many of the environmental challenges we are seeing today (e.g., plastic pollution in the ocean, deforestation, etc.) will become more manageable for us to undo and nature will heal itself.

As the folk singer Pete Seeger sang:

“If it can’t be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled or composted, then it should be restricted, redesigned or removed from production.”Click To Tweet

What has been the most impactful sustainability project you have found?

Every single project we have featured on Sustainability Champions is making a big impact in its own way! Following from the answer above, I think one the most impactful is the Ellen MacArthur Foundation because they are examining every aspect of human life in an effort to eliminate wastage of any and all resources. The transition to a Circular Economy is the biggest challenge we need to solve because it will ultimately determine whether we as humans can thrive alongside nature.

What has been the most unique sustainability project you have found?

One of the most unique projects I have encountered is created by a partnership between two companies called Climeworks, which captures CO2 directly from the air, and Carbfix, which pumps liquid carbon into the ground.

Climeworks captures CO2 from the air using massive fans. Carbfix takes this CO2, mixes it with water and then pumps it between 800 and 2,000 meters (about half a mile to 1.2 miles) underground, where the liquid CO2 turns into stone after a few years. In summary, these companies take CO2 from the air and turn it into rocks a mile below ground. Crazy stuff!

Why should people consider becoming more sustainable? Why is it worth their time and energy?

I interviewed Jonathan Howard from Kora App, a movement that rewards sustainability, and he shared that great quote, “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” First, being environmentally sustainable means that we protect the environment that we live in. No matter how advanced our technology becomes, we will always be dependent on nature for our survival and we will need to preserve this for future generations. Second, I’ve found that for many businesses and individuals, being more sustainable often makes financial sense: you can either save money, make more money, or sometimes both!

What company/organization do you believe is getting sustainability right?

There are so many organizations around the world that are making a massive impact and are leading the way in how to be sustainable. One of my favorites is Ecosia, the search engine that plants trees. I know I wasn’t the only one checking their tree-counter multiple times per day in order to screenshot the moment when they reached 50 million trees. The ad revenue Ecosia earns from searches goes to tree-planting organizations around the world. So far, Ecosia’s searches have planted almost 115 million trees! In addition, Ecosia runs on renewable energy from a solar plant they recently built. That’s important because Internet servers are one of the largest electricity-consuming industries in the world.

If you check them out on YouTube, they have great videos showing how they put their plans into action.

What country do you believe is being the most sustainable and why? What are they doing differently from all the other countries?

There is certainly more than one country! Personally, I love Costa Rica’s sustainability story because it is one of the only countries in the world that first stopped the deforestation of its rainforests and then reversed it. As a result of the government’s efforts, the country’s forests are almost back to where they were before there was any deforestation. For such a tiny country, it is amazing that Costa Rica contains 6% of the world’s biodiversity. Costa Rica has also run almost entirely on renewable energy for the last five years!

What is your long-term vision for Sustainability Champions? What do you hope to accomplish?

I want to continue highlighting people around the world who are working hard to protect, heal and regenerate the environment and featuring them as champions for doing so. I love the inspiration that Sustainability Champions brings to people who follow the Instagram channel and I want to share these stories with more people every day.

What is your favorite Instagram account that you follow?

Lately, I am a big fan of the @4ocean account. The before and after pictures they post of cleanups on beaches and oceans is really inspiring to see! I love seeing them track the amount, in pounds, of trash they clean up. As of this writing, they have pulled up 11 million pounds and I’m sure that number will continue to go up quickly!

What is your favorite blog and/or podcast?

The Daily Stoic. Although it’s not a sustainability focused blog, I think it’s appropriate and helpful, especially today. What is Stoicism? Ryan Holiday, the author of the blog, explains it best:

“It’s a philosophy designed to make us more resilient, happier, more virtuous and more wise–and as a result, better people, better parents and better professionals.”Click To Tweet

I think in a time when we are constantly bombarded with information and the world sometimes seems like it is completely falling apart, the Stoic philosophy helps me put everything in perspective and carry forward. I imagine there is something in this philosophy that would be helpful to pretty much everyone.

We all need inspiration and I find this in the works of people around the globe creating solutions to heal and protect the planet.