Sometimes adaptability means swimming against the current, and that can help the environment.

In the summer of 2011, the Italian government was facing financial issues. Deciding to cut back on expenditures, it introduced a reform to incorporate villages with fewer than 1,000 inhabitants into larger administrative units headed by a single mayor. But one small village called Filettino resisted these measures. It understood that adaptability sometimes means swimming against the current. 

As far as the villagers were concerned, reacting to new developments didn’t mean rushing into old reforms or embracing change for change’s sake. In their view, one way of adapting was to defend the status quo, and that’s precisely what the mayor of Filettino decided to do. 

Defying the government, he declared the village’s independence and issued its own currency. It was called the fiorito, meaning “flowering” in Italian – a reference to the settlement’s belief that it would continue to flourish. The village looked to the past for inspiration, harking back to the age before unification when Italy was ruled by many small city-states, kingdoms, and principalities. In the end, this act of resistance preserved Filettino’s independence and sense of community. 

Headstrong Italian villagers aren’t the only beneficiaries of swimming against the current, however. Bucking trends and following one’s own path has also helped a number of companies thrive. 

Take Levi Strauss as an example. Manufacturing jeans is traditionally a resource-intensive operation. The finishing process alone requires around ten separate washes and gallons of water. If the jeans have a special pattern or a fade effect, that requirement increases even further. That was accepted as a given until the American firm decided to shake things up. 

Rather than simply going along with the idea that the only thing that matters in business is generating profits, Levi Strauss began factoring environmental considerations into their calculations. Soon enough the company had figured out a way of finishing jeans without using any water at all. By using stones to soften the fabric and rinsing them with a special type of resin, the company cut its water consumption by an incredible 96 percent!