Jared Meyers: “Here are 5 things we must do to inspire the next generation about sustainability and the environment”
Lead by example — Ralph Waldo Emerson said “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” When you practice sustainable efforts at home and in your day to day activities, your children become forces for good by habit. My children and their friends are well aware that my family supports ethical and conscious products and companies, avoids single use items, drives electric vehicles uses solar panels at home, has a composter in the backyard and an heirloom seed garden for produce and herbs, and we even share with them how we donate to various charities to become carbon neutral through offsets. Showing children and young people exactly what to do and that you do it yourself is critical to driving home the message that sustainability is easily practiced and attained.
As part of my series about what we must do to inspire the next generation about sustainability and the environment, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jared Meyers.
Jared is a hospitality veteran with more than 20 years in the industry. The University of Florida graduate is passionate about delivering a quality experience through his company, Legacy Vacation Resorts, to help friends and families enjoy unforgettable vacations together. One of his other passions? Utilizing the power of his business as a force for good. Searching for a way to use his resources and abilities for positive change, Meyers learned about Certified B Corporations — companies that voluntarily meet the highest levels of social and environmental performance with transparency and accountability. Inspired by his findings, he immediately set out on a journey to transform his company into a Certified B Corp and also create a movement to help other Florida based companies and hospitality and travel businesses to do the same. Always looking towards the bigger picture for his social and environmental impact goals, Meyers co-created the Florida for Good program. With its entrepreneurial spirit, Florida For Good is the connector between B Corps, Conscious Capitalism, 1% For The Planet, like minded organizations/networks, governments/chambers, academia, and the localized For Good ecosystems throughout the state. Meyers directly or indirectly has ownership in 3 Certified B Corps and is currently working on a 4th.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
I grew up in Miami, Florida in a single parent household. My parents divorced when I was 10, largely influenced by my father’s substance abuse. My early life was chaotic but it helped me become independent at an early age.
My mother’s family was health conscious before it was popular and I was raised vegetarian (as the 4th generation in my family).
I lived a privileged lifestyle in the brief time with my father and a more frugal one with my mom. With my mom, reduce and reuse were common practices. These applied to everything from carefully unwrapping gifts to reuse the paper, to grabbing relatively new school supplies rather than buying them, to combining partial used soap bars at home to extend their life.
Life challenges were common, and when combined with my family challenges, my childhood was not a happier time of my life. However, it taught my persistence and resilience, and I have relied on those skills for my greatest successes in life.
Was there an “aha moment” or a specific trigger that made you decide you wanted to become a scientist or environmental leader? Can you share that story with us?
When one is around the business community long enough, they realize that business can be used to achieve a greater good or for greed. We can all think of extractive and exploitive businesses, but it is harder to find the businesses that make a legitimate positive impact. In the real estate development and resort hospitality industries, I struggled to see how my businesses could make a positive impact and felt that word “sustainability” was either being used as part of a greenwashing campaign or could only effectively be implemented by few companies. So, I became disillusioned with business’ relationship to society and the environment, treated it as a necessary evil, and spent some time searching for other answers.
As I searched, society’s problems and the effects on our climate continued and seemed to worsen, but I became better educated on how I could use my resources and abilities for positive change. Through this journey, I came across Certified B Corporations. I was in awe that household names like Patagonia, Eileen Fisher and Seventh Generation were part of this movement and disappointed that my home state of Florida, the 3rd most populous state, only had 17 B Corps. These B Corps were voluntarily meeting the highest levels of social and environmental performance with transparency and accountability, and all the while thriving. They adopted a higher purpose, stakeholder orientation, conscious practices and this led to their strong profits and worth. I became determined that I would certify my businesses and I had to help the Florida and global movements broaden their reach. Over the next year, I was able to certify both of my companies and am glad to report that each of them have robust environmental impact programs.
Is there a lesson you can take out of your own story that can exemplify what can inspire a young person to become an environmental leader?
The willingness to continually learn at any age is the key to personal progress and success. The better educated we become and the more consciously we live our life, the better we are able to perceive the small and large ways that we are all connected to each other and nature. After a difficult family and business phase of my life, I was seeking answers as to my purpose and how I could engage with business in a way that was not harming people and the planet. Eastern philosophies of Buddhism and Taoism were quite helpful. Through this, I determined that it was up to me to set my purpose and I embarked on a path to bring harmony and congruence into my life. In doing so, I was able to be both a business leader and an environmental leader. There does not have to be a tradeoff. This allows me to utilize my business skillsets in a way that improves society and our environment.
Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?
As part of the Sustainable Legacy Initiative, Legacy Vacation Resorts has several programs to address climate change and sustainability. We think of these on the spectrum of reducing harm to generating net positive impact.
This past year, we offset 100% of the carbon footprint from each guest’s stay booked directly through the resort. We calculated the carbon footprint, considered the type of energy used, resort occupancy, square footage of spaces, and the different activities performed indoors, and then offset the footprint through nonprofit We Are Neutral. In 2020 we will go a step further and achieve carbon positivity as a company. This will be achieved through a strategy of reducing energy use, increasing energy from renewable sources, and offsetting the rest through reputable offset companies.
In 2019, we removed plastic water bottles from our on-site stores and replaced them with Boxed Water as part of our larger effort to eliminate single use plastics. Very soon, we will provide reusable bottles to all guests at check-in and filtered water stations which will save our guests money, reduce waste, reduce plastics, and educate our guests on how they can continue these practices when they go home.
All of our resorts will be installing signage designed to help our guests make the conscious link between their behaviors, our company’s practices and the eventual impact these have on their health and our planet.
We donate tens of thousands of dollars and provide free resources to For Good Movement, Inc. so that it can bring the business community together to solve for climate change, restore a healthier environment, reduce inequality, alleviate poverty, build stronger communities, create high quality jobs with dignity and purpose, and put sustainability at the core of every business decision.
We also have various other programs and offerings to reduce our footprint, which include EV chargers at each property waste reduction protocols, robust recycling programs, enhanced water and energy efficient fixtures, drought resistant and native landscaping, along with many other environmentally conscious features. Every year, we will improve our impact.
Can you share 3 lifestyle tweaks/things that the general public can do to be more sustainable or help address the climate change challenge?
- Eliminate single use items. This will also save you money.
- Support companies like B Corps that are using their resources to better the planet. Purchasing decisions have a greater impact than philanthropy. Last year $400 billion was provided in philanthropy but $130 trillion was spent on buying everyday items.
- Help to spread awareness and inspire others to be more conscious of their effects on our planet. This can be as simple as having conversations with your close contacts.
Ok, thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview: The youth led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion what are 5 things parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement? Please give a story or an example for each.
- Lead by example — Ralph Waldo Emerson said “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” When you practice sustainable efforts at home and in your day to day activities, your children become forces for good by habit. My children and their friends are well aware that my family supports ethical and conscious products and companies, avoids single use items, drives electric vehicles uses solar panels at home, has a composter in the backyard and an heirloom seed garden for produce and herbs, and we even share with them how we donate to various charities to become carbon neutral through offsets. Showing children and young people exactly what to do and that you do it yourself is critical to driving home the message that sustainability is easily practiced and attained.
- Educate — I like to take every opportunity to speak to my children about the importance of sustainability and climate action for our collective future and the future of the planet. You should connect the dots for your children on how simple acts have massive ripple effects. For example, drinking water from a plastic bottle typically destroys the environment from oil drilling, steals away natural resources when the water is obtained from public lands, creates greenhouse gases when the water is transported across the country to you, harms your health through consumption of microplastics, and then poses harm for ocean life when 80%+of those bottles are not recycled. I share my ideas with them and teach them about organizations like certified B Corps, brave individuals like Greta Thunberg, nonprofits like 1% for the Planet and other similar entities.
- Inspire — I seek to inspire my children in many different ways. They include connecting with nature (it is tough to appreciate anything that one has not experienced), empowering them to be leaders through climate activism (being a leader for something greater than yourself feels good), and showing them how a simple and sustainable life actually leads to greater health and happiness while also protecting the environment (The only reason to live in opposition is due to misinformation or lack of knowledge).
- Encourage — Whenever your children show interest in a particular area of climate action or sustainability, encourage them to feed that desire. Nurturing their interests will not only prepare them to protect humanity and other species, but it will uniquely set them up to be leaders and provide great career opportunities as employees or entrepreneurs.
- Provide opportunities for action — There are always opportunities available on a moment’s notice like picking up trash on your street and recycling it. Recently, I took my daughter and her friend to a climate strike. Creating educational signage, meeting smart individuals, and feeling part of a greater movement led to their enjoying the entire experience. This action led to her running for class representative at school on an environmental platform (and winning) and to leading a climate change educational workshop for my co-workers. Education is retained when you put it into practice, so we must give our children outlets to act on what they have learned.
How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?
There is a shift happening in the consumer landscape- one in which people are seeking companies that share their values. Individuals today want to feel good about what they are buying and which businesses they’re supporting. When companies seek a path of conscious business, ethical practices and support social/environmental impact causes, they will enhance relationships with existing customers and increase their standing with other customers that may not have previously supported them. There is no downside to practicing business for good — it certainly won’t make you lose customers. You will also attract higher quality employees and money from impact investors. The book “Good to Great” is a bestselling book and has been a model for many business leaders, but most of those leaders didn’t read “Firms of Endearment” (by Raj Sisodia). Over a 10-year period, the Firms of Endearment financially outperformed the Good to Great companies by 3 to 1 and that metric fails to account for the most importance difference being that Firms of Endearment spread joy, fulfillment and make the world a better place. The evidence is clear that companies which heal are more profitable and successful.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There is not one particular person that I can reference because people are flawed, but there are particular ideas and values that have meaningfully impacted me. I am grateful to many people, and as it relates to business, Lao Tzu, Elon Musk, and Yvonne Chouinard currently have the greatest influence over me.
Lao Tzu helped me understand two important concepts. First, there is a interconnectedness among all things. “See the world as yourself. Have faith in the way things are. Love the world as yourself; then you can care for all things”. There is no Us and Them, there is only Us. And second, that the endless pursuit of more just leads to suffering. “If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich.” This realization lead to my no longer seeking greater financial wealth but instead using my resources to seek a better experience for others.
Elon Musk showed me that it was possible to build a successful business around solving massive worldwide problems. Tesla’s mission was not to sell more cars but instead to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. I like to think of my companies as tools to improve society. Salt Palm Development builds townhomes in order to build Florida’s business for good movement. It does this through its practices, shifting culture, and its commitment to provide at least 50% of its profits to the betterment of St Pete and Florida.
Yvonne Chouinard taught me that humans usually mess things up and that business could be successful while operating with pure intentions at its core. Patagonia remains the gold standard by which we create our vision and execute upon it. They continually prove that we can all do better. Chouinard has so many great quotes but this one really sticks with me “there is a powerful connection between treating our things as disposable and treating the people who make those things as disposable. And there is also a connection between the way we trash our stuff and the way we are trashing our planet.”
You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Great movements already exist that simply need more awareness and support. Using business as a force for good rather than to extract and exploit for personal gain is world changing! There are great movements like Conscious Capitalism that are doing this, and I like to focus on the B Corp Movement because it is verified Conscious Capitalism, so you can trust it. When culture shifts, and new norms demand a society built around inclusiveness, regeneration, and shared prosperity, we will have a world that we are proud of and also one that can truly sustain us.
Because the nature of your question appears to be looking for a new movement, then Regenerative Travel is needed. This is not to say that some others are not conducting business this way (and my ideas are greatly influenced by those leaders), but most are not and it is necessary for the travel industry to survive and to eliminate the consequences of its business model. Regenerative Travel is travel that regenerates ecosystems and creates harmony among all of its parts. It is a vacation experience that understands interdependence and interconnectedness and embraces these concepts to leave you deeply fulfilled. It uses travel as a force for good, so that you cultivate your connections with family & friends, create your own unique experiences and memories, reduce stress and improve your health, enhance your creativity and abilities; and enrich your appreciation for life itself.
All of this is accomplished while offsetting any environmental consequences and restoring natural systems, protecting natural & cultural heritage, improving the quality of life of local people, and sustaining these practices for future generations. At its core, it is love and compassion while on vacation.
It does not simply focus on only one element of the system (such as the more popular eco-sustainability in travel), while ignoring all of the other pieces required of true sustainability and regeneration. It does not desire growth which is out of balance with its system. And it does not use “regenerative travel” for clever marketing.
Instead it works in collaboration with other values aligned organizations, to adapt and evolve travel, to provide a net benefit to all of its stakeholders, and to eliminate the terms “sustainable” and “regenerative” when those practices become the norm. It does this with a legal commitment to voluntary transparency and accountability, as verified by B Lab, a nonprofit third party, and a promise to measure and improve what matters in a way that is inclusive and equitable.
Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?
“Start with being a good person and expand from there.” Every decision we make, action we take, company we join, friend we make, and vacation we take reflects our values. Are these decisions motivated by greed, conquest, and self-indulgence or do they convey a pure intention of compassion and a desire to lift those up around you? My decisions are not always in alignment with who I am, but every day I seek for them to be, and every success that I have had is as a result of this.
What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?
Please find me on LinkedIn, I would love it connect.
This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!