Attack of the Scuppies!

Rock and roll plus country equals rockabilly. Red plus blue equals purple. Shit, chicken and beer equals a bomb ass meal. But what is the result when a socially conscious person and a yuppie do the nasty and make a baby? No, not a towering, crawfish-like creature with the likes of District 9, but a farmers market-shopping, organic clothes-wearing, hybrid car-driving scuppie.

Scuppies, or Socially Conscious Upwardly-mobile Persons, are the ones who dress in pricey, organic clothes that carry $100 recycled shopping bags. They are the people who can afford the modern, energy-efficient modes of transportation that whisk them to their local Whole Foods faster than the speed of light, while their miniature-sized adopted Yorkies sit in the passenger seat. They are the ones who love going green just as much as making it.

The face of the socially conscious person has changed in recent years. As the world's awareness of green solutions increases, those who can afford to pay the extra cost of going green do so without hesitation. Local businesses and corporations have taken notice of the demand to go green by creating retail stores, food products, and electrical devices aimed towards those who want to save the environment, minus the price of losing a comfortable life. With an abundance of sustainable methods, everyone has the ability to go green without going broke.

"I like the fact that I'm socially conscious and socially mobile," says the original scuppie, Charles Failla, who openly embraces his label. "I live to enjoy myself." The Stamford, Connecticut, native coined the term over a decade ago after a coworker gave him weird looks for wanting to help the homeless pro bono despite wearing an Armani suit and a Rolex watch. "I felt it was another example of someone judging a book by the cover," he says. A local newspaper in New York picked up on the concept a year after Faila's scuppie branding when more people began thinking green, but the term died down shortly after, according to Failla.

Failla says it was not until spring of 2008 when the term resurfaced again in a USA Today article. The piece created a chain reaction of stories that made mention to the new-aged yuppie. The word eventually got out and a new definition for the socially conscious, moneymaker was born.

Failla believes the rise of the scuppie has had a massive effect on what we see sitting on the shelves inside our local grocery stores. "Because of scuppies demanding green goods, mass retailers are providing greener goods," he says, pointing out Wal-Mart's decision to sell environmentally friendly products as an example.

And he is right about the high demand of green goods thanks to scuppies. According to an article in the LA Times, the Mintel Global New Products Database says almost 200 million Americans buy green products and the number of those green products on the marketplace in 2007 has grown 200 percent from the year before. In addition, organic food sales are anticipated to increase an average of 18 percent each year from 2007 to 2010, according to the Organic Trade Association survey.

But going green does not always equal the food in the bellies of hemp-wearing do-gooders. Over the past few years a series of eco-friendly stores emerged in response to the prayers of the scuppie. Eco Citizen was one of the answers.

Founder Joslin Van Arsdale chose to establish Eco Citizen after volunteering for the Santa Fe Folk Art Market one summer. During that time, she met a Brazilian lace maker who supported twenty-six indigenous villages with the sale of her lace at various markets. Arsdale was inspired to do good as well. After extensive research, she moved to San Francisco, where she opened her shop in 2007. Her aim with Eco Citizen is to provide fashionistas with clothing that is trendy and eco-friendly, meaning you will not see her products made in sweatshops. Her San Francisco based boutique contains environmentally savvy designs from ten to fifteen different designers--some of which are local.

One of the more popular items Arsdale carries in her store are TOMS Shoes, which cost a reasonable $50, and with every purchase, an additional pair is sent to a child in need. And for the ladies who like to show their sassy side, Arsdale sells heels, which are 100 percent recyclable. Not only does her store carry fashionable items, but her shop uses low volatile organic compound (VOC) paint, which reduces chemical outputs found in normal paint; has pergo floors, which cut back on deforestation; and organic cotton for her dressing room curtains.

Besides providing scuppyish threads, Arsdale lives the green lifestyle as well. "I only buy clothing that is either recycled or eco-friendly and drive a fuel efficient Volkswagen Golf," she says. "I live a mile from the store so I am able to walk part of the week." Arsdale does more than take the occasional stroll to work when she pleases. On days she is not walking, she uses the Green Cab, a cab service that offers all hybrid vehicles to transport riders; she recycles and composts most of her waste; and she limits her water and electrical consumption as much as she can. "These are all little things all of us can do on a daily basis," she says. "Its all about being conscious of the choices we make, instead of going on auto pilot because it's a habit or convenient."

Environmentalist Jennifer Temple disagrees with the scuppie way of life. "I have a problem with people buying into sustainability," says Temple, who thinks scuppies are in denial and do not see the big picture. "The point is to change the way we do things," she adds. The Toronto, Ontario, Canada, resident has lived the green lifestyle for 40 years and loves the challenge of testing her sustainable lifestyle. "I love making a game of finding new ways of preventing further damage to the planet," she says. Some of Temple's methods towards staying true to her greenness include bathing only on Saturday evenings (other nights it's a good ol' fashioned sponge bath), maintaining her own organic food garden in her backyard, restoring old products to reduce garbage in landfills, and cutting back on wasting toilet water. "If it's yellow, I let it mellow," says the 53-year-old.

"Corporations say we can buy our way into the green lifestyle and if we believe that then we're in trouble," says Temple, who only shops in thrift stores. "The idea that we can create a sustainable society while still being able to buy green toys, clothes, cars, rugs, and dishes is loony. We cannot keep getting new stuff and heal our habitat."

San Francisco State University Environmental Studies Professor Glenn Fieldman is also a green fanatic, but she sees a price premium attached to the cost of going green. "A single mom in West Oakland might be just as environmentally conscious as anybody, but when it comes down to it and she's doing her back to school shopping," she says while slightly lowering her voice. "She's not going to be able to afford a tree alternative spiral notebook for her kid."

Fieldman also feels there is a measure of status involved with the scuppie way of life. As she leans back in her chair, she says, "If you have a huge house, I don't care how green it is, how sustainable can it really be?"

According to SF State professor, Brent Plater, the result of major crisis over the past several years has awakened the socially conscious. "The plight of the polar bear and melting ice caps really raised attention about the environment," he says, citingAl Gore's film "An Inconvenient Truth."

Plater, who lives green as well by shopping at the organic food market, Berkeley Bowl, says the demand to do well for the environment has always been there. "Nobody wants a product that rips people off in third world countries or causes harm to the environment," he adds.

It is difficult to discount Plater's claim about eco-savvy individuals in our society, but like everybody has got a little "Captain in 'em,'" just about anybody who eats, shops, or lives the slightest green lifestyle could have a little scup in 'em. Just ask Failla, who considers himself 70 percent yuppie and 30 percent hippie. That said, it is possible to be 99 percent hippie and 1 percent yuppie or vice versa.

In a society driven by consumerism and, more recently, the intent to do good while living well, it's hard to help, but like a scupped out Hulkster would have said, "Let the scuppie run wild on you, brother!"

Sure, going green often times comes at a heftier price, but Failla has some good news for those who think going "organic" is out of their reach. "The more that consumers, like me, demand green goods, the more will be produced," he says. "As more are produced, the cheaper they will become. The cheaper they become, the more they will become the 'norm' as opposed to the exception."

As scuppies continue to run rampant across the states, buying eco-friendly products at will, Plater feels they can still do more. "Buying a new hybrid car and a new non-hybrid Toyota has a marginal impact on environmental footprint," he adds. "There's always more you can do to help the environment. It's not only what you buy that makes you who you are."

No harm has been done to any scuppies while writing this article.



John Bird | staff photographer
Leesa Corradino checks out shoes that are made out of breathable, one hundred percent recyclable plastic.



Copyright © 2008 [X]press | Journalism Department - San Francisco State University