Zem Joaquin has long been maintaining a sustainable lifestyle far before it was eco-chic. As a pioneer in the world of green, she first launched her website ecofabulous in 2006. She was a contributing editor to some of our favorite shelter magazines like Domino and was a founding member of Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, a non-profit organization which educates and empowers designers and manufacturers to use sustainable materials in the products they create and in 2014 she sold her popular site to the Huffington Post. But that’s not all! Zem has furthered her commitment to the environment by founding the Near Future Summit, coming up next week in San Diego which invites experts to discuss #worldpositive solutions from food to health to energy. We’re smitten with Zem’s commitment to our earth’s well-being and we’re excited to share more. Read on…
Zem, we’ve been a fan of you and your work in the green living space since your days as a contributor for 7 x 7 magazine in San Francisco! What first drew you to be so environmentally conscious?
I’m touched. When my children were toddlers, they both suffered from terrible asthma. I had tried everything that was recommended, and then it just hit me like a ton of bricks that it had to be the toxins in the house I had “updated” for the arrival of children. Everything was new, and I suddenly realized that I could smell the off-gassing (a blessing and a curse for sure!). I began to read everything I could get my hands on. I took classes, received certifications, and then I read Cradle to Cradle by McDonough and Braungart. When I reached out to William McDonough, he generously took me under his wing, which has led to a lifelong mentorship. I joined the board of Global Green, Healthy Child Healthy World, and Teens Turning Green. With all of the collective information I gleaned, I set out to create a toxin-free home. Thankfully, once we relocated to the eco-friendly renovated house, both of my children’s health improved dramatically. Ecstatic, I felt it was my responsibility (also a bunch of fellow TEDsters encouraged me to do so) to share my resources, so I started a blog that became the website ecofabulous.
You created Ecofabulous, a lifestyle website for green living in 2006 which many would say was ahead of its time which you have since sold to Huffington Post (no biggie!). What did it feel like to actually sell your business? Were you a little sad/nervous or were you 100% pumped to see your baby go?
Haha, well it took me a long time (over a decade) to actually do it, so I was definitely ready when Arianna called me! I have had zero regrets and I am happy with the home it found.
What was the biggest thing you learned creating and growing your own business to a point where you were able to sell it?
Wow, so many things, but I guess the most significant thing I’ve learned is to believe in myself and to seek guidance from people who know what they are doing. I have been blessed to have incredible advisors.
You have since moved on to be the founder of the Near Future Summit, which inspires industry leaders to come together to make positive change in the world. Tell us more about this initiative and how people can get involved.
Near Future is a community of action-focused, world-positive solution-seekers. Because it is so small, we have an application process, but anyone can subscribe to the newsletter and watch the videos that we distill down to two minutes for efficient YouTubing.
What were the first 3 things that helped you turn your dream of building the summit into a reality?
- A phenomenal community of mentors, advisors and partners… and our fabulous producer, Keeley Locke.
- I knew enough people who wanted to focus on solutions rather than problems, which was a point of differentiation.
- I was cautious but not afraid to take risks.
One of the sessions at this year’s summit is “How to make future cities smarter, healthier and more sustainable”. If you could inspire women to make one change in their daily lives to create the biggest impact, what would it be?
Eat less meat. It is so simple and there are so many alternatives from Beyond Meat and Miyoko’s Kitchen to organic veggies. You don’t have to be militant, but your kids will be healthier and so will the planet!
Another super simple one is only using air conditioning when absolutely necessary both in buildings and in cars.
You are a big believer that you don’t have to forgo style for sustainability. What trends are you seeing right now in fashion and what brands are you excited about?
Stella McCartney is my go-to, but there are lots of exciting new members of Cradle to Cradle’s Fashion Positive campaign, like G-Star, H&M and C&A. For easy, affordable clothes, I like San Francisco’s own Amour Vert.
What advice do you have for companies looking to incorporate more sustainable practices into their business?
What are your go-to resources for determining family safe products for your home?
Given your long history with running on online business, what sort of rules do you enforce (if any) when it comes to tech and being online for your kids?
My kids check their phones when they get home from school. We do not allow Snapchat and monitor Instagram closely. Like most of our friends in technology, we use OurPact as a way to monitor media consumption. It is a tool that is often used as a blunt instrument.
What is one dream you have that you have yet to accomplish?
My goal is to help people with audacious solutions get to scale. I still have a lot of work to figure out how to best make that a reality.
What are your non-negotiables when it comes to family time?
We make sure to take one-on-one trips with our kids. I make sure to drive to the majority of activities myself (the drive time is talk time), no social media during the week is critical and having sit-down family dinners on most evenings is essential.
3 pearls of wisdom
It is important for kids to earn their rewards through effort. Gifts are not a gift.
Don’t be afraid to monitor your children and minimize screen time.
Share your values through activities and let them know how you are showing up in the world.