Tuesday, 30 October 2007
Which to Believe?
...or the ideal home show?
According to several sources this week (a PSFK interview here, and the Guardian piece online Freya linked to) the public mood on eco is cooling. Or is it? My sense is that the media agenda has reached the point where - after what was undoubtedly a hyped story - the natural next step is a green backlash. But is that where real people have got to? I'm not so sure.
The Guardian headline says it all "Britons tired of green issues news"
Here's the data from the ideal home exhibition research and the way the Guardian report it to try to support that headline:
"nearly a quarter of people (23%) admitted they were bored of "eco news"
"nearly a fifth (18%) exaggerated their environmental behaviour because it is fashionable."
"nearly four fifths of those questioned (78%) think not everybody is making the effort."
"Men are more cynical about the difference they can make, with nearly a fifth (19%) believing small changes won't have any effect, compared to 11% of women"
"Overall, 80% of respondents said they used energy-saving light bulbs, 90% filled the kettle with the right amount of water, 83% recycled paper, glass and plastic and 82% took old clothes to charity shops."
"But three quarters did not use eco-friendly detergents, 81% did not check wooden items were from sustainable sources, nearly half (44%) tended to turn up the heating instead of putting on more clothes, 22% left mobile phone chargers plugged in and 32% left the TV on standby."
"There was also cynicism about green energy suppliers and almost half (48%) of those questioned did not know what the energy performance certificate for homes was."
You could take the same set of findings and say
77% are far from being bored with eco news
82% are not just doing things because they are fashionable
81% believe that small changes can make a big difference
You could also say that the evidence now is people really changing their behaviour
80% of respondents said they used energy-saving light bulbs,
90% filled the kettle with the right amount of water,
83% recycled paper, glass and plastic
and 82% took old clothes to charity shops
56% put on more clothes rather than turning up the heating
78% dont leave mobile phones plugged in
68% dont leave TV on standby
52% (ie vast majority of home owners) know about the new home energy certificate
There is still further to go, some behaviours eg checking wood sources remain niche (19%). But at least we've made a start.
Even allowing for the fact that there might have been a few dont knows, you can probably see the point; in the space of just a few years people have taken the problem and the solutions on board and have started doing lots of good things. And of course most people do know that not everyone is making the eeffort; underlining the need for everyone to get on board.
If you look at international surveys (eg BBC-Synovate) you will see that the UK is ahead of even Scandinavia on many everyday things which you can do to make a difference, from refusing plastic shopping bags to choosing a smaller car.
Let's not talk ourselves into a backlash story here in other words. Another view is that we have just successfully passed the first stage (hype) and are now into more substantial changes in lifestyles, biusiness and politics. From now on its not about broad brush strokes ('green') but rather specific agendas be it local, efficiency, renewables, cheap flights, city car use....
The key thing for headline writers and home consumables exhibition organisers to note is that rather inconveniently climate change is a substantial, scientifically well established and rather threatening reality. It is not this year's colour. It is here to stay. We cannot un-know the link between taking unecessary flights or driving a 4x4 or buying food and drink from New Zealand and the very real human misery caused by drought, flooding and so on, particularly in the worst hit developing world. I really liked the point made by Eugenie Harvey at Applied Green (echoing what Christian Aid and others have been saying for some time) that climate change is no longer and ecological issue, it's now a humanitarian issue.
Incidentally, just to say, the Guardian is usually great on environmental issues and Tamara Giltsoff who was interviewed by PSFK and was talking aboyt the US situation is a one woman eco revolution (and was I reckon quoted slightly out of context; not to say that people are no longer interested but they are looking for substantial innovations). But it still seemed an interesting story to respond to, it quite often comes up as a hypothesis ('dont you think that...") when I am talking to companies and public audiences too.