If you ask Ted Ning to succinctly describe LOHAS, the organization of which he’s executive director, he’s at an uncharacteristic loss of words. Loss might not be the right word, but it’s hard to put the work of LOHAS (which stands for Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) into one sentence. Describing it as an organization that acts as a conduit between individuals and corporations interested in further exploring, on various levels and through varying forums, “Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability” is a good start. It can be different things to different people, which is probably why having Ning at its helm is a very good idea.
The Colorado native, currently ensconced with his wife and French bulldog in the vicinity of Boulder, has explored several very diverse career paths in his mere 42 years. He got involved in freestyle skiing while in high school (his sister Heather was, at one time, ranked number one in the world) and ended up coaching at Colorado University and, later, in Japan during the 1998 Winter Olympics. While there, he started a successful tee-shirt business and became a tour operator of sorts. Back stateside, he worked at a dot com, then sold life insurance before taking a job at LOHAS as a data input analyst. Six years later he’s running the place.
“I’m trying to give it more of a concentrated focus and direction,” he explained. “For the last few years we’ve been a platform to bring people together. The big question for me right now is, What’s next? Our yearly conference has a Ted-esque aspect in that it is an ideas conference, but I’d really like to take this to the next level and make it more of an actual brand, as it is in Asia.” It turns out that LOHAS is huge in Asia. According to Ning, 60 percent of people there recognize the name. That’s probably because it has been transformed into a brand with LOHAS department stores, hotels, parks, sneakers, and even bicycles. “They latched onto LOHAS since it embodies eastern philosophy and values and wraps them in a western package. Things like respect for nature, peacefulness and serenity, simplicity and cleanliness,” he explained. “But in many cases there’s nothing LOHAS about those products, kind of like green washing here. However, since we’ve got critical mass and awareness in Asia, one of the next steps is to figure out how to get it to come full circle this way, and start enforcing regulation with it.”
Clearly we won’t be seeing LOHAS sneakers stateside anytime soon. But if Ning has his way, LOHAS’s popular three-day-long conference (that draws hundreds of attendees from all over the world and speakers including Faith Popcorn and Philippe Cousteau) will expand from a once yearly national event to several regional events in cities including New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Minneapolis and San Antonio. www.lohas.com