By Elliot Hoffman, Founder and CEO, REV
I am a “boomer.” I was born and raised in the Bronx, graduated from NYU (Greenwich Village campus) in the early 70s, and lived in Manhattan until 1973. At that time, I moved to San Francisco and met and married the love of my life, Gail Horvath, and started a family. We have two grown and loving kids, Miles and Joanna, both of whom are living fulfilling lives in Colorado and Oakland and so we often have very sweet family time together.
Enjoying our “Just Desserts”
Gail and I founded “Just Desserts” in the mid-70s which grew from a small bakery with just the two of us to a well-recognized and beloved brand with over 300 employees by the late 90s. Butter was my best friend and we went through 40,000 pounds of the stuff every month.
We were devoted to providing our customers and communities truly delicious treats. Our cakes were so good that I loved eating my own products and my behavior caught up with me. In the end, I weighed in at 225, up from my college swimming weight of 175.
Fast-forward to 2013 when Gail and I started having interesting conversations about aging. We were both roughly 35 pound over our ideal weights.
The Bigger Benefits of a Better Diet
At the same time, one of our dear friends from South America suggested that the world’s diets, and agricultural and food systems (especially in the U.S.) are causing massive ecosystem destruction, are a major cause of global warming and climate change along with poor nutrition and bad health, and an extreme waste of resources for people. For example, the way meat is often produced and consumed in the U.S. and other nations can be abusive to our bodies, to the animals, and to the earth.
If we all ate healthy food instead of the sugary and salty processed foods that many of us currently eat, not only would our personal health improve, but also our health care costs would be greatly reduced, and our environment would be far better off. Boy are we glad we listened.
Behavior Change Begins at Home
At REV, we deeply believe that our own behaviors are at least as impactful as many technologies when it comes to sustainability. Certainly, we need to continue to invest massively in new energy systems for the world — clean, safe renewable energy is an imperative for the future. We need to embrace innovations that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and save water and money.
However like many others, we realize that it is our mindset, our worldview, and the resulting behavior that are primarily the root cause of the major challenges facing us, personally and collectively.
As the founder and CEO of REV, I realized that if I cannot change my own behavior at home around my health and well-being, how can I possibly expect anyone else to change their behavior. So in May 2015, Gail and I committed to change our diet and eating behavior in order to live healthier lives, contribute to a healthier planet, and maybe set a small example for others.
We are clearly not perfect and don’t ever expect to be. Behavior change is no easy task — our habits are developed over a lifetime. It takes creativity, will, reward, and, perhaps most importantly, collective partnership to make a change (thanks Gail!).
Now, instead of meatless Mondays, we’ve almost eliminated meat entirely, only have fish perhaps once a month, eat little dairy (a pound of butter now lasts us months), and our diet is 95% plant based. To this day – in 2019!
Our reward for changing this behavior has been great — in five months, I dropped 30 pounds that I have kept off over four years now. I am healthier, and feel better than I have in years. This is no special diet, but just a shift in what we eat. It’s all about personal behavior change. Another trick to successful behavior change is that it is not about sacrifice — the food we eat tastes great.
In addition to our diet, we’ve made a number of other behavior changes that save us money and make us healthier both in our personal lives and in our work lives. We know that we are behaving in ways that will hopefully give our kids and our new granddaughter a better chance of leading a decent life.
It’s About Our Behavior
As any weight loss specialist will tell you, even the most well-designed diet will only bring long-term results if it is combined with a change in behavior. In the case of sustainability, we will not be able to dramatically effect change without the help of new technology. But even the most advanced technologies will only have a minimal impact if we don’t change our mindset and behavior — the most efficient lighting still uses energy unless we get in the habit of turning it off.
The key truly is behavior change and collective action. One individual, one family, or one voice in a company certainly can’t do it. But imagine your family, your department, your community, your company, and a few million others making conscious behavior choices that can help change the world.
Think about one small behavior change you can make and who you can bring along for the ride. Perhaps it is just remembering to turn off the lights in your office or a shift to meatless Mondays at home. How can you inspire others to be healthier or more sustainable? Together, we can do this.