Unless you live in California, you would be hard-pressed to understand why in the world a start-up would launch a perfectly good green living directory and then burden it with the trappings of pseudo-buddhist spirituality. Well if you're scratching your head at this week's launch of GoodLife.com, which does just that, I'll explain...
You see us Californians live in the land of materialism. Hollywood is the mecca of materialism — we invent it, we flaunt it and we spread it all around the globe. So its not surprising that we also found a way to turn spirituality into a material pursuit as well. Take a walk some day down Main Street in Santa Monica and you'll know what I'm talking about. Packs of tights-wearing cougars trek the streets sipping their organic green tea boba soy lattes, multi-colored yoga mats in hand, searching for the next "it" guru who can bring true relaxation to their bodies and a deep and profound sense of self-virtue to ease their troubled minds.
It is only out of this context that a thing like LOHAS could be born. What is LOHAS? Well it is a marketing term invented by the Natural Marketing Institute that was founded in the 90's by the creator of Gaiam, Jirka Rysavy, to basically define the new and then emerging culture of "conscious consumers" — people who want to live "lifestyles of health and sustainability" (L-O-H-A-S). I think if you lived in the California at the time, it probably made sense to lump spirituality, health & wellness, and eco-living all together. The markets were so small at the time and the predominantly 40-something women who occupied them so affluent and so overlapping, why not invent a tailor-made marketing genre just for them?
Thus LOHAS was born. I went to several of their conferences and found the mixture of church and state a little disturbing. It's not because I have any problem with spiritual pursuits of whatever sort, I just didn't see why the business of spirituality (because yes, it's a business) should be mixed up in the business of spreading the gospel of green. But I guess that was just it. At the time, a mere 5 years ago, hardly anyone even believed global warming was real (thanks Fox News). We really were preaching to try and get mainstream America to adopt eco-friendly behaviors. So its not surprising that a religious tonality infiltrated the green meme.
But that was five years ago. The green market has since boomed, global warming is officially real (even according to ex-President Bush), and many totally average American red-state families are trying to figure out how to create a healthier environment. This might be news to the creators of GoodLife, but buddhas and magic healing crystals just kind of freak out some people. At the very least, it confuses them. I just came here to find a non-toxic window cleaner ... healing crystals, huh??
So GoodLife, my unsolicited advice ... you have a nice search engine for local products and services. Why muddle it? This is a tool many all-American moms and dads are looking for, so strip out the airy fairy stuff, and just give them a green directory populated by people who really care about the environment, rather than by a motley crue of psychic healers, yoga gurus and Deepak Chopras. It would make for a much better brand with much longer legs to reach over into middle America where the real change is needed. Unless of course, you just want to be acquired by Gaiam.