The Actively Lazy Environmentalist

Class of ’94 | Josh Dorfman C’94 is a self-described “lazy environmentalist” who also happens to be the founder and CEO of an eco-conscious furniture and clothing company.

Ten years ago, however, he was like any other wasteful American. “I wasn’t raised particularly as an environmentalist,” he says. “It wasn’t something that was really on my radar screen as a college student.”

All that changed when Dorfman spent two years living in China marketing bicycle locks. “When I came back to the States,” he recalls, “I started to process that experience and process all the economic advancement I was seeing in that country.” He began to wonder what the world would be like once China became fully developed—and its billion citizens were all driving cars. Surely, the environment would suffer.

Dorfman left the business world and enrolled as a political-science Ph.D. candidate at The George Washington University. He quickly realized, though, that “once you’re informed and you really understand what’s going on in the world, what good is that if you don’t take any action? Knowing seemed sort of useless to me.”

At the same time, he concluded that products deemed eco-friendly “really lacked style and a sense of design. They were totally crunchy, totally granola.” With that in mind, Dorfman founded Vivavi, an upscale, contemporary, environmentally friendly furniture and clothing company that he wants to be anything but “granola.”

Vivavi’s current line-up of “eco-luxury” products includes a dining table made from bamboo and steel, and pinstriped cuffed pants spun from organic cotton. “We will only carry a product that is contemporary, stylish, and eco-friendly,” he says. “If it’s not all three, I have no interest in it, because it’s not innovative. The innovation is in creating products that really address the reality of how people want to live their lives.” These eco-friendly items can be costly, though, with prices ranging from $38 for two handspun bamboo bowls to nearly $8,000 for a full-size desk.

Yet prices haven’t proved a deterrent, as Vivavi passed the $100,000 sales mark several months ago. Customers come from all over the country, from California to Arkansas to Georgia to Ohio.

The consumer demographics are not as scattered. The first group of consumers is young professionals, ages 27-38, who are starting families and becoming more aware of the chemicals that enter their homes. The other is a subset of baby boomers known as the “BoHo Bourgeoisie.”

“These are people who were hippies, then became investment bankers, and are now trying to reincorporate their hippie roots into their investment-banker lives again,” says Dorfman.

But even though his day now revolves around bringing consumers eco-friendly products, Dorfman still feels like a “lazy environmentalist”—although less of one. In fact, it was his May 2005 weblog entry entitled “The Lazy Environmentalist”—which detailed his desire to “do the right thing” along with his insistence that the thing be “totally fun, cool, and sexy”—that landed him his own radio show on the VoiceAmerica Network.

On the show, Dorfman discusses what he calls the “modern green lifestyle” with guest environmentalist designers, entrepreneurs, and leaders.

The network has already turned Dorfman’s 13-week pilot into an ongoing show, and he is currently in talks with a second radio station that airs on Sirius Satellite radio. “There are so many ways for lazy people to act in an environmental way now,” he says. “I don’t see us running out of things to talk about anytime soon.”

—Molly Petrilla C’06

©2005 The Pennsylvania Gazette
Last modified 10/27/05

Profiles : Events :
Notes : Obituaries

Anti-doper David Howman
Jewish advocate David Harris
“Lazy environmentalist” Josh Dorfman
Skate-entrepreneur Jen Goldstein
American woodworker Peter Korn

Nov|Dec Contents
Gazette Home

Previous issue's column