Gold, recycled tyres and other valuable things

Originally published 25 August 2016 on LinkedIn.

Humans have always held certain items and goods as dear, valuable and desirable.  For instance, we have considered gold as valuable since ancient Roman, Egyptian and Inca societies and in the modern day, trade it on the stock exchange.

But why do we continue to value gold?  It has no intrinsic value.  We have placed a value on it over other rarer metals.  Over metals which are shinier.  Over metals which are hardier.  Indeed, why do we value anything?  And why don’t we value other things?  And in particular the environment?

Not to confuse cost with value, I started looking at why we value certain items from a truly absurd point of view and it all came about from this video.

Truly absurd with clear references to The Wolf of Wall Street, however, it demonstrates how humans arbitrarily place value on otherwise valueless items.

So what if we were to overnight value the environment?  Some of us already do but I mean truly collectively, globally and unreservedly value clean air, plentiful rainforests, clean water, polar icecaps, biodiversity in fauna and global temperatures.

If you take gold as the reference, the argument leads to commoditising and trading these elements then the cost of environmentally damaging activities would be captured within the economy.  However, I think it must go beyond this to the individual level, as before gold was traded it was desired.

The question then becomes how do we make the environment desirable at a personal level so individuals wish to keep it, protect it and admire it on others as they do with gold?  After a short amount of research, I was pleasantly surprised to find there are a number of publications, companies and individuals who are in fact already doing this.

Eluxe Magazine promotes themselves as the world’s first ever sustainable luxury fashion and lifestyle publication.   They have environmentally conscious printing practices as well as articles on sustainable fashion and products.

Maybach Mercedes have released a completely electric luxury saloon car concept which does not compromise performance.  They join BMW, Toyota and famously, Telsa, amongst others.

The Harvard Business Review wrote a piece on Positive Luxury’s 2016 Predictions For The Luxury Industry: Sustainability And Innovation which tracks the trends in sustainability in this industry.  Heart-warmingly, it found investors are increasingly concerned with sustainability and environmental targets as well as financial prowess.  It also found millennials used their consumer power wisely as well as their labour power, choosing to work for companies whose social and environmental practices align with their own.

Finally, Emma Watson, Margot Robbie and Lupita Nyong’o wore environmentally sustainable dresses by Calvin Klein to the 2016 MET Gala and thrust the glamorous eco-warrior into the global limelight.

However, desiring the latest environmentally conscious personal item should not be limited to the wealthy or luxurious.  Next time a friend buys a Toyota Prius or boasts about their recycled denim jeans or flashes their bracelet crafted from old tyres, see them bathed in gold and desire to be as forward thinking as they are.

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