What We Make Matters: My Efforts to Help those Affected by Climate Change
Matter is a product design and consulting studio based in the magic city of New Orleans, a place whose intimate and truly unique culture is beautifully intertwined with flavors from the Caribbean, Europe, and the South. It is a city grounded in community and its warmth, openness, and encouragement drew me in immediately.
It is also a city that is severely susceptible to the effects of climate change. How soon will it happen? Many say 2050, others say it could be at the end of this century—both predictions feel too close. We, as a society, have chosen not to believe in science for too long on this.
It is part of Matter’s mission to establish sustainable manufacturing jobs in the area, creating work that is healthy for the both people and the planet. As evidence of climate change becomes more concrete, the associated costs of the items that we purchase come to mind regularly. What is the cost of no longer having precious wetlands, which offer protection during hurricanes and are an essential balance for our eco-systems? Or, the full costs of manufacturing items inexpensively, as seen in the recent garment factory collapse in Bangladesh? Or, the true cost of air pollution to our health?
All of these side effects are not currently tallied in “cost of goods sold.” As climate change increases, these costs will also rise. TIME Magazine estimated that global flooding expenses will average $6 billion a year. Considering the worst case scenario should be the gauge for decision-making in city planning, manufacturing, and energy. The most hopeful consequence or blind-eye scenario is what we have been using since the birth of the Industrial Revolution and the time is now. Our over-use society is creating climate change.
Sustainable decision-making is at the forefront of what we need at every level. Sustainable = able to be maintained at a certain rate or level. Matter, the first Benefit Corporation in the state of Louisiana, is dedicated to creating sustainably made, daily-use products that foster meaningful connections for our most important social and environmental problems. We aim to focus not only on the effects of decisions made now, but also for a healthy, sustainable future.
Matter’s launch product was BirdProject Soap, which I began to produce in order to raise funds for the oil spill cleanup after BP’s Gulf disaster. Each all-natural black, bird-shaped soap contains a white, ceramic bird, which remains as a keepsake once the outer soap has washed away. Through the daily act of washing, you will eventually free the clean, white, ceramic birds inside—potent symbols of restoration and recovery. Fifty percent of proceeds are donated to groups working on restoration after the BP oil spill disaster. We are proud to have donated $18,000 to date.
Now I’m launching three additional community-based products that give back and focus on building literacy. We have a series of letterpress notebooks with proceeds going to the “I Have A Dream" Foundation. Rabbits for Reading, a flax linen napkin set—once folded, a rabbit appears— will help raise funds for S.T.A.I.R., a one-on-one tutoring group and First Book, which gives books to schools in need. The last product is a blanket, inspired by the needs brought by Hurricane Sandy, which forms a heart upon your chest once wrapped around you—it's essentially giving a warm hug. These blankets bring you warmth while also raising funds for rebuilding communities that are still affected by Hurricane Sandy, with a percentage of proceeds going to Architecture for Humanity for their efforts to rebuild communities affected by disasters around the world.