Good Ideas Salon Tokyo: 3 Questions for Marc Alt

Good Ideas Salon Tokyo: 3 Questions for Marc Alt

PSFK asks Marc Alt, one of our panel members at the upcoming Good Ideas Salon Tokyo, what pure living means to him.

Dan Gould
  • 16 october 2009

On October 20, PSFK and Nissan will host a Good Ideas Salon in Tokyo. For the event, Piers Fawkes (PSFK) will moderate a conversation on “Pure Living” with two panels of distinguished guests, including:

Marc Alt – Green Visionary, Founder at Marc Alt + Partners
Mark Dytham
– Creative Catalyst, Partner at Klein Dytham architecture, and Founder of Pecha Kucha
Peter Rojas
– Technology Guru, Founder at gdgt, Engadget, and Gizmodo

Rie Azuma – Lifestyle Architect, Azuma Architecture
Danny Choo – Japan Sub-Culture Authority, CEO at Mirai Inc.,
Hiromi Matsubara – Green Media Activist, Co-founder,

We’ll explore perspectives on pure living and how it is currently manifesting itself in design, technology, urban living, and transportation.

PSFK asked the participants what pure living means to them. Marc Alt answers:

How do you see the ideal of pure living manifesting itself practically in the world today?

Pure living is becoming increasingly important to people on a personal and cultural level, which in turn influences daily lifestyle choices. On the personal level, one example is a resurgence of what I’d call heritage or heirloom culture and values, which is a kind of retreat back to a more considered form of living. There is a renewed attention to locality, provenance, efficiency, authenticity, and ethical footprint, and a new love for farming, craftwork and other artisinal pursuits. A return to making things with your hands. On a more general level, people are responding to common sense ideas like knowing where their food comes from, generating electricity and powering their lives from the sun and wind, and sharing resources with neighbors. One of the upsides of this new enhanced awareness is that it often aligns behavior with what some people like to call sustainability. This can be defined in general terms as living in balance with natural systems. In the business world, companies are actively trying to connect their offerings and practices with a world that is growing increasingly aware of the impact of lifestyle choices. Ideas of operating in harmony with nature and society have long predated the term sustainability. The concept of kyosei is a very old Japanese philosphy adapted to modern life, and informs the operating principles of Japanese companies like Canon. The more that mission-driven companies engage in authentic and real commitment, whatever they call it, the more they will become relevant to customers who are aiming to achieve a more pure way of living.

What people and projects out there are leading the way in pure living?

A lot of my interest is in how people are working to develop new ways of living more sustainably in cities. People are experimenting with bringing food production back into urban centers, such as community farming initiatives like Growing Power, and urban farming experiments like edible gardens, rooftop farms and vertical farming. There are new grass-roots knowledge-pooling initiatives like Skillshare, neighborhood resource pooling ventures like NeighborGoods and Neighborrow, and service innovation models like Hello Health and ZipCar. There is a movement to take a more systemic approach to this and layer sustainable innovation and efficiency into city planning and communities. Transition Towns is an example of this. I also like some of the more fun, design-driven experiments in communal living and pooling resources, like El Cosmico in Marfa, Texas, which is a modern take on the intentional communities that sprang up in the 60’s and 70’s.

How do you see pure living playing out in the future?

In the developed world, it’s a luxury for us to talk about pure living as an ideal or a lifestyle choice. There is a huge virgin market in what some people call the bottom of the pyramid, the people for whom “pure living” is not a choice. Developing clean technologies that preserve the integrity of the planet while serving the needs of the billions who live in a state of poverty and elevating their living standards will be one of the defining challenges of our time. I’m personally interested in sustainable cities and harnessing clean technology to provide food, energy and mobility for rapidly expanding urban populations. Future systems of agriculture, transportation and energy production are the next wave of economic development and wealth creation for the 21st century. We need to feed an increasingly crowded planet while protecting and restoring the ecosystem services that are available to us for free from nature (access to clean air, water, soil and other systems that support life). Smart companies will re-imagine the way that they develop products and services to both reduce the footprint of our modern urban lifestyle while providing a path to a sustainable standard of living for the rest of the world to aspire to.

Good Ideas Salon Tokyo


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