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.
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.
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.