I’ve talked about living well before, and my thoughts on how living well is foundational to a good life. The “good life,” is a riveting subject, in part because there are so many views on what constitutes one. Vacations in affluent beachside resorts or bottles of vintage champagne are often attached to the phrase, but most people believe the good life extends far beyond sparkly luxuries.
So, I’ve asked some of my favorite tastemakers to contribute their thoughts on what the good life is, and how we can achieve it. Johanna Björk, founder of the serendipitously titled eco-activist/lifestyle blog Goodlifer and co-founder of MOJO Projects is kicking off this new series. And unsurprisingly, she has a lot of insightful things to say on the topic.
Tell us a about the genesis of your blog, Goodlifer. What prompted its development?
I started Goodlifer in 2008 because I was tired of all the bad news that I was constantly hearing from mainstream media. I’m Swedish, and we are generally pretty dark (too many Bergman films, I suppose), but I was feeling like all this negativity that I was surrounded by as soon as I turned on the radio, TV or computer was really getting to me. I needed to know that there was, indeed, good things happening in the world and I started searching for them. I found so much good stuff and, because it made me feel better about the world, I decided that I needed to share it with people. A website seemed to be the easiest, best way to be able to reach whoever was interested in this sort of thing and since I have a design and writing background it was easy enough to make that happen.
At Goodlifer.com, we believe in the transformative power of good news and know that it is possible to create a world where we all can live the good life, without causing harm to the planet and those who share it with us. We’re constantly discovering people and companies working toward a greater good, and our mission is to spread the word, inspire and give you the tools you need to live consciously and sustainably.
Define “The Good Life” for us.
To me, the good life is not some kind of attainable ideal that you arrive at some day, it’s about the journey. A good life is one that is happy, fulfilling and inspired — creating the best possible life for oneself without inflicting harm on anything or anyone else.
How did you transition from graphic designer to cheerleader for living well?
Designers are all about making things look as good as possible, that’s why we’re drawn to that kind of creative profession. I guess it’s almost like a compulsive desire. For me, this extended to life itself — wanting to help people design their lives to be as good as possible. From the start, I knew that Goodlifer had to be visually inspiring, so we use a lot of images and graphics to help tell the stories. People just relate to visuals on a basic level and, as a designer, I think I understand that better than most.
Are there projects or brands that you’ve come across recently that exemplify the good life?
Yes, so many! I hate to single any out, but there are some great ones that I have written about lately. Nudie Jeans Co. is a Swedish brand that has managed to transition their entire denim line to be 100% organic. I like them because their image is not at all about “being green,” they just do it because it’s the right thing, and don’t leave that choice up to the consumer.
Chivas Skin Care is a family farm, located not far from where I live in California, where a mother-and-daughter team handcrafts soaps, creams and lotions and from goat milk from their herd of goats. Cleaning products company Method has done great things from the start, with both the products and the packaging, and they recently launched the first-ever soap bottle made from recycled ocean plastics.
On a local level, People for Urban Progress in Indianapolis are showing that with great ideas, great design and dedication, you can really transform your community. They started by salvaging the material from the old RCA dome that was about to be discarded and made everything from wallets to bus shelters from it. They’re also making things using old Super Bowl banners now — giving things that are normally only used for a day new life as something people actually want to buy.
Right now, Goodlifer has teamed up with PACT to promote the crowdfunding of school gardens across America. I represent a really sweet one in Ojai called Meiners Oaks elementary. Supporters are rewarded with lots of good karma and great organic underwear perks. Lend a hand?
There is a strong strain of environmental consciousness running through Goodlifer. Why is it important to you?
It should be important to everyone, no? In my ideal world everyone cares about the environment enough to call themselves an environmentalist. After all, if we don’t have a livable planet, we’re all pretty screwed. I made a conscious choice from the start, though, to not rub it in people’s faces. That’s why the site is called “Goodlifer” and not “Ecolifer” or “Greenlifer” or something like that. I think those terms have become so associated with guilt that it turns people off to some extent. Sustainability is an underlying theme in everything I do, but doesn’t always have to be the main focus.
For example, as part of an on-going creative partnership with organic clothing label PACT (I was the face of their holiday campaign last year) Goodlifer and MOJO Projects did a cross-country road trip, shooting images all along the way. This concept turned into a new travel section in “The Good Times,” a newspaper which is distributed at retailers across the country, including Whole Foods.
You’re a Swede living in Ojai, California. How does your internationalism inform your aesthetic…or does it?
Ha ha, that’s hard to say. I’ve lived in many parts of the country (Miami, Brooklyn and, now, California) and each of those places is like a completely different country to me. I truly appreciate the cultural uniqueness and identity of each place. I think I do have a certain aesthetic that’s maybe more European, and my values are perhaps more humble, down-to-earth and “greater-good” oriented.
Growing up in a “socialist” country like Sweden, I took certain things for granted — universal health care, free education, good public transportation, and year-long maternal leave. Living in the U.S. for over a decade now has made me appreciate just how amazing it is to have those things, and equally amazed that some are willing to fight to the death to prevent them from ever happening here. That said, there are many things in the U.S. that I would like to see more of in Sweden — like entrepreneurial spirit, widespread grassroots activism, old-fashioned romance, and people wearing lots of color.
Trends to watch in 2013?
As far as consumer trends, I think storytelling is going to continue to play an increasingly big part in how we choose to spend our dollars. People want to know the story behind the products and services they purchase. Partly, I think it’s how we stay connected to the realness of things in the increasingly digital world we live in. Simplicity is also a growing trend. Instead of aspiring to own lots of things, we are now yearning for a simpler, more pared down life, without so many material things. People are realizing that they don’t need as much, and, as a result of that, look for smaller apartments and more streamlined wardrobes, and so on.
When it comes to sustainability, I believe it’s going to be much about human rights. Those horrible fires in overseas factories that make our cheap clothing and other similar scandals make it impossible to ignore the human factor any longer. Hopefully something good will come out of it, and we will finally see workers everywhere getting paid living wages. The important thing to note is that all of the change we’ve seen so far has stemmed from consumer pushback, so let’s all keep fighting the good fight. If you ever find yourself thinking “someone should do something about that,” realize that you are “someone.”
(All images courtesy of MOJO Projects)