Each year, every green-minded food, beverage, LOHAS or natural company on Planet Earth gathers at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, California, just a reallllly long stone’s throw away from Disneyland.
Last year—after years of covering the Expo in elephant magazine and hearing about it from colleagues—I was able to attend for the first time—now that we’re online and my laptop is my office, I’m much more transportable.
Below is our Walk the Talk Show video from last year, sponsored by our friends at Silk Soy/White Wave and Fresh Ideas Group. I was able to help break the story on organic certification coming to bodycare (previously, the word meant little when it appeared on anything other than food or drink)—and, below, I ask our Silk Soy friends why they’d taken much of their line from organic to “natural”—a controversial decision that, while disappointing on the surface, made more sense the more I learned about it.
Watch for cameos by many great “green mentors” and colleagues. Video:
To make my Top 10 List of Things to Love about NPEW, I called my colleague Adriane Little and we came up with a list of likes and one or two dislikes. Et voila:
Top 10 Things to Love about Natural Products Expo West.
1. The energy, excitement, the passionate people everywhere you go. It’s a vast gathering of like-minded people who, whether vegan or natural/free range farmers or spiritual types of whatever persuasion, make all feel welcome. Generally speaking, it’s a group of people dedicated to making the world a better place through business.
2. The fun. Every year, there’s great bands and room parties and concerts and dinners…and great groggy (organic, fair-trade) coffee and water guzzling the next morning.
3. The Organic Center Dinner. Last year my friend Melissa McGinnis invited me to help intro the dinner—a dinner that though invited to by Saeger Media methinks I didn’t eat…instead I spent time walking around meeting various green heroes of companies I look up to, like Seventh Gen or Eden Foods. These are the people and companies having an effect on the planet and making a living doing so.
4. The countless new companies and products. The basement of the vast Expo is particularly exciting—it’s where new companies making their Expo debut generally gather. It’s fascinating seeing what fads are in (suddenly, everything is gluten-free!), out (climate change? Irrelevant), and figuring who will “make it.”
5. Schwag. You can get free “green” stuff everywhere you go.
6. LA weather. Not that you’re outside, much, but hey…I fly out of snowy Denver and spend a few days in shorts and havianas. And, yes, a shirt.
7. Random celebs (Dr. Weil, Jim Carrey, many others) and media (Discovery’s Planet Green team, elephant journal’s “staff”) wandering the aisles. Great “green giants”—mentors who have paved the Right Livelihood path.
8. Meeting the people behind your favorite companies. Love Organic Valley? Larabar? Evol Burritos? Amy’s? I live on Que Pasa chips, for example…and last year I got to meet the ladies and gents behind ’em. For some reason, that was really meaningful and fun.
9. The activists. There’s plenty of benevolent troublemakers with signs and funny outfits protesting Monsanto’s gmos and such. Good on them.
10. Twitter. If you’re a social media type, you can follow #npew (if I’m remembering correctly) and keep up on everything that you might otherwise miss. There’s always great lectures, discussions, events happening everywhere. We live-tweeted some of the conference last year, and plan on doing so again.
A few areas for improvement.
1. Adriane and I couldn’t think of much we didn’t like, except: no wifi. How do you blog/tweet/spread the good news if you can’t get online except when you get back to your hotel room at night (where you’re paying $12 a day for wifi)?!
2. A few other downsides that come with the territory of any expo: it’s tiring. Your feet will resent you. Hours without a real break, day after day, walking on cement? It’s tough stuff, and took Adriane a week to recover from. That said, short of coating the floors in organic tofu, this really isn’t NPEW’s problem—every expo is exhausting.
3. The schwag (yes, again). For those visitors who aren’t eco-responsible, the endless sampling constitutes a minor crime (felony? Misdemeanor?) against planet earth. The good folks at NPEW try and minimize schwag surfing by prohibiting people from bringing carts in.
4. With the exception of a few great booths, like Delicious Living’s last year, shipping, setting up, taking down and reshipping 5 kabillion trade show booths isn’t even close to Zero Waste. Again, this comes with the territory of all expos and conferences.
5. Despite your best intentions, you’ll find yourself going through 50 sample cups a day. I wish there was an easier way for all of us to use more compostable cups, and see fewer overflowing trash bins (that get sorted later, thankfully, we were told).
All in all, there’s more good being done for the earth at NPEW, it’s fair to say, than at a gathering of eco activists? Why? These people are transforming confused, unhealthy capitalism into health, less processed and yet still profitable products that are better for our families and planet alike. Look forward to meeting you this year—if you’re at the Expo, tweet us and we’d love to meet up and include your story in our daily write-ups of the Expo.