Sunday, 13 May 2007

Small change vs real change

If you look at the brand marketing around green, which invites people to make changes (the lists of ten pledges), they are mostly little changes that add up; energy efficient lightbulbs, not leaving things on standby, washing your clothes at 30. I have heard people say that you have to tackle little things like these, because while people have green concerns and want to do their bit, they arent willing to sacrifice. I am wondering if that is actually olde worlde thinking.

What if (and the Landor data supports this view) people really are gripped by a universal recognition that climate change is the biggest challenge we face? Doing a few small things from one of these pledge lists actually doesnt feel like doing much; it's like giving a few coins to a homeless person - it actually confronts you with a feeling of helplessness.

An alternative view is people want to make REAL changes; ones that they know will be effective. If those involve giving up some flights or a car, going vegatarian, insulating your home... people might actually feel better for it. The dark greens I know are focused on the result and the big changes & often dont fuss over little details, because they dont make enough difference. Whats more big bold initiatives are better marketing, right? Only 35,000 wanted to run 10K with Nike's Run London. But the impact on the capital and the running culture is another matter. They'd certainly not have done a 3K fun run.

That opens a space for brands to be much bolder than they currently are in suggesting green behaviour, and also with initiatives like renting out products (instead of selling) and so on. Plenty of research says the mainstream wasnt ready for those changes. But is we have indeed been through "a revolution" in attitudes, then they may well be now.

Here are some of the big items, if you actually do want to cut your carbon footprint significantly
1. stop flying. 20-30% of the average UK carbon footprint
2. driving. ditto - use public transport or cycle
3. go vegetarian
4. use products til they wear out
5. recondition and re-use products til they wear out again
6. home energy efficiency renovations, plus move to an Eco energy supplier
7. grow your own veg, plant trees, shop local, eat seasonal
8. live in a smaller home, which is closer to your workplace
9. stop watching TV (new models forecast to use more energy than fridges)
10. have less children

If you did actually 'get religion' about the green issues (and again that's the sort of shift I think we are talking about on a mass scale), these sorts of changes would feel like actually doing something. The lessons of similar scale changes like the internet is it is amazing how deeply people want to get involved in stuff they are 'into'; witness the hours spent on blogging, youtube, flickr....

There are some intriguing medium size ones too. Grocery delivery is much greener than driving to the stores (especially if we all did it and the 'extra, heated, out of town boxes' were taken out of the chain). If you look at the same flexibility on the consumer side from a business model point of view, suddenly there are huge potential innovations possible.

Time will tell, and research isnt much of a guide at the moment. My hunch is that you cant be BOLD enough.

1 comment:

Andrew Smart said...

Hey John, thanks for adding me (us) to your blogroll.

I found this which is basically my and I suspect your dream job in a box!