Green Grows Up at Santa Monica’s Eco Gift Festival

The second annual Eco Gift Festival, held at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium over the past three days, demonstrated how the “green” products industry has matured.  Last year’s inaugural Festival drew a good-sized crowd, and many of the mom-and-pop vendors reported brisk sales.  However, this year’s Festival was marked by the addition of some of the heavy hitters in the eco-friendly products field.  Linda Loudermilk brought her “Luxury Eco” line of couture clothing made from seaweed, bamboo, and other sustainable materials.  Former actor turned television director Melanie Mayron was on hand with her Mayron’s Good Baby line of baby products.  And green granddaddy Pangea, makers of eco-friendly personal care products for the past decade or so, was selling out its inventory.  

Linda Loudermilk's Luxury Eco
Linda Loudermilk

The Festival this year was also expanded to three days, and included speakers such as documentary filmmaker Josh Tickell and TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie.  However, the star of Saturday’s speaker series was author, political pundit, and L.A. celebrity Arianna Huffington, founder of one of the world’s most popular blogs, The Huffington Post.   The choice of Huffington was curious, given that she is not primarily known as a leader of the “green” movement.  It turns out that festival founder Tommy Rosen’s wife Kia is Huffington’s yoga instructor.  Sure enough, Huffington only uttered the word “green” once during her presentation, which focused on changing ourselves to change the world.  However, she did go into more detail during the Q and A, explaining that one of her top priorities has been to make her own home and her own life more green and thus healthier, for example, by using greener paints and cleaning products. 

Star of the show Arianna Huffington
Star of the show Arianna Huffington

To some people, myself included, the Eco Gift Festival begs the question of what makes for a “green,” “eco-friendly,” or “sustainable” product or company.  First-time vendor applicants must fill out a statement of qualifications explaining how their products fit this bill.  Nevertheless, some products wre greener than others.  For example, Carly Miller, General Manager of Clothing of the American Mind, explained that her company’s t-shirts are not only made with organic cotton and printed with water-based dyes, but even the price tags and the cords attaching such tags are made with hemp, and their bags are biodegradable.  Not every company selling products at the Festival could make that claim. 

It is also apparent that green gifts must compete with other gifts, without getting a free ride.  Time and time again, I have heard that people will not buy green products solely based on the products’ eco-friendliness.  Products that are good for us must also be attractive, pleasing, and entertaining to become successful.  Just ask Arianna.

New Leaf Paper's recycled paper products
New Leaf Paper's recycled paper products

5 thoughts on “Green Grows Up at Santa Monica’s Eco Gift Festival”

  1. I’ll say what you were too polite to say outright Matt, though I could read between the lines :)

    This is the type of green I would call vomit green. I can’t believe that people are trying to turn consumerism green. Consumerism is what causes unsustainability. You can’t have green consumerism. Green consumerism if it does exist would have to include paying everyone in the process a livable and sustainable wage which means companies like Walmart and most clothing companies regardless of how organic the cotton is will never, ever be green.

    And Huffington as a speaker, that is utterly ridiculous.

    The only green goods are used goods. A real twenty year old fur coat from an endangered species from a thrift store is more green than any new organic hemp piece of green washed marketed bs.

    Luxury Eco, someone needs to be slapped.


  2. Browne, I appreciate your comments, although I don’t agree that the situation is as all-or-nothing as you make out. Obviously, people are going to buy new products. Given that fact, I think there is a value in having products that are to some degree eco-friendlier (and some companies do go pretty far to provide living wages, etc.) However, I agree with you that, as I indicated in the post, “green” can be a squishy term, and people who are seeking to buy “green” products should ask a lot of questions about them.

  3. I also agree that excessive consumption of anything, including goods and resources, is by definition not “green.”

  4. The issue I have is labeling of this kind of thing green. I think instead of co-opting the term green and sustainable people like should make up their own label.

    Of course you can’t go all the way, but people shouldn’t lie.

    Just tell the truth. If you don’t care about being green or the environment, but you want the products we use to have less cancer causing chemicals or you want better treatment for the animals that we kill to eat or make our products to be better, then say what I’m doing is trying to make a bit of difference in what people who like to consume buy. It’s nothing wrong with having a difference of opinion on what the journey looks like. Even though I don’t drive I have no problems or judgment on people who do. Even though I don’t eat meat I don’t have any problems with people who do. We all do what we can. I’m not self-righteous in that way, but don’t turn the environmental movement into some kind of marketing ploy to make money, because it happens to be popular right now.

    Be sincere with your intentions. The kind of thing you described in the above post is not sincere. It’s not about anything, but making money.

    It’s not that I want people to stop buying things completely I totally get that’s not doable for everyone (just like not driving is not possible for everyone) at least not right this second, but at least when you do something make an effort to be real about it.

    And don’t take something that is real and make it into something ugly simply because you have more money to take it and make your voice louder and therefore more relevant. That kind of thing is just not decent.

    There are alot of people out there who really would like to do something and because of people like you described above end up thinking they can’t afford to do something or that if we buy the right thing that we can save the planet and that’s not fair. It’s not fair to the little people out there who don’t know and depend on people who have a little bit more to give them an example of what they could be doing.


  5. This is lifestyle marketing with “green” as the hook. Products and services and magazines and trade shows go with lifestyle marketing. Green means, among other things, using less stuff, reusing what you have, and avoiding commercial packaged products, especially ones that aren’t necessary.

    So, great lifestyle marketing! But this is the opposite of environmentalism. It is, in fact, part of the problem.

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