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Okay, I doubt hell is actually eco-friendly. I think their climate has already changed dramatically. Apparently it’s hot in there. Maybe even more than just simple plain old global warming? Anyway…

This “eco-friendly” stuff really gets to me. Every single day we are bombarded by someone telling us to be more eco-friendly in our lives and in the choices we make. But can we really be eco-friendly?

Maybe the problem starts with what we define as eco-friendly. Do we mean something that is good for the environment or something that is just less bad than the alternative? Too often we are told something is eco-friendly when it is really only eco-friendlier than the alternative. For instance, anything made out of plastic will have an impact on the environment – even the biodegradable stuff. In fact, almost everything uses resources and will have a negative impact on the environment. So it can’t really be eco-friendly. Right? Or can it?

You drive a hybrid – is that eco-friendly? Not in a million years would you suck on the exhaust pipe – it still has some bad stuff blowing out that old metal pipe. Give me a C… Give me an O… And another O… What do you get? Anyway, it is just better than the alternative Hummer.

You’ve changed your light bulbs – does that make you a tree hugger? Hum, it still uses electricity that will most likely not be from a renewable source. And don’t forget the bad stuff insight that “green” light… Ever heard of mercury?

You eat organic foods – makes you feel green doesn’t it? Hope you planted that yourself because they don’t get to the shop or your house via wind power you know. No matter how many beans you eat…

But it doesn’t mean that these things won’t be more positive for old mister bunny rabbit down in the woods. Or something better for the kids playing in the park. It’s just that we will have an impact on the environment – whether we want to or not. We won’t be able to go back to the “good old days” when everything was green and lions roamed the streets (hopefully Will Smith was only acting). And I don’t think we want to either. People want their stuff – tv, fridge, dishwasher, computer etc. I know I want a bigger telly one day. Angelina looks so much better on a bigger screen. Anyway… And even if they don’t want this level of technology – remember, even books don’t come with a zero impact. Trees being chopped down and all that ink…

It’s more about achieving some sort of balance. Nature has always healed itself. Trees provide us with oxygen, oceans clean oil spills, chickens have eggs (and eggs have chickens). We will run out of some things – oil and coal to name a few. But that’s okay, we’ll find new ways to travel and heat up. We always have and, hopefully, always will.

While being eco-friendlier won’t make a tree hug us, it will allow for the tree to continue to grow. And it’s the little things that can make a difference. Cut your emissions by turning the lights off when you don’t really need it. Save water by taking more showers than baths. (Remember the “Share A Shower” campaign? Maybe we should start that again…) Save on electricity and water by not filling the kettle to the top when you really only need a cup of water for your coffee – or tea if you’re from England. Find your own little thing to adapt or change – and don’t give up living at the same time. It won’t change the world overnight, but it will all add up if we all become a little eco-friendlier.

Being eco-friendlier will give the environment the time it needs to heal itself. The problem right now is that we are getting to a stage where the time needed by nature for healing can’t keep up with the pace of our (and nature’s own) impact. Be a little friendlier and give nature a bit more time. Even if you don’t like nature, remember it serves as a central place for human life. We won’t make it if we didn’t have the trees, the animals, the water. No shelter, no food, no beer. Think about that last one… Can you really live without that?

But don’t be all starry eyed about nature either. Remember, nature isn’t human-friendly. If a branch falls it doesn’t check if you moved the car. If a forest burns it doesn’t check if your house is in the way. If a volcano explodes it doesn’t check if the villagers moved out in time. If a lion hunts it doesn’t check if you can run faster. It does what it does. It is what it is. We shouldn’t park under the tree. We shouldn’t build in fire prone areas. We shouldn’t stay so close to the volcano. We shouldn’t live so close to the lion. But we do because we all share this world – and sometimes we are just plain stupid or have no alternative. And anyway, we rule the world and they don’t. Live with it.

But if you insist on being eco-friendly – some advice… Go bury yourself out in the woods. You will have minimum impact, except for the disturbed soil and life cycle of the shovel. But you will be eco-friendly – pushing up daisies. I’ll be eco-friendlier and water the plants. With a watering can. It’s eco-friendlier than a hose.

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Hey, I have a job as well! Imagine that. Someone actually pays me to have an opinion. Anyway… Thought I should give you a peek at the type of stuff I write for work. This will go on our work blog in the next few days. It’s been edited. You’ll see that! A bit different from my usual style and topic. But it gives you an insight into some of my other work-related thoughts.

Build it (green) and they will buy?

Everything seems to be turning green. And there is nothing wrong with that – companies creating new, innovative products and services that are good for them and good for the environment. But consumers haven’t completely bought into this yet. A number of green products aren’t flying off the shelves the way companies anticipated. Why is it that the green revolution has taken companies by storm, but not consumers? With the environment at the forefront of consumer concerns, it makes one wonder, why consumers aren’t dropping the bad stuff and buying the good stuff. We build it, but they just won’t come.

Why?

Some products are a big hit with consumers – the Prius and CFL light bulbs are taking off in a big way. So why aren’t they buying green shoes, food, computers, etc.?

There are many reasons why people buy certain products and not others – price, functionality, “coolness,” brand loyalty, etc. One often overlooked factor is: how do the environmental aspects of the product help the consumer?

Let’s first look at why the Prius and the CFL light bulb are so popular. They allow consumers to feel better about themselves when they use these products. A person starts their Prius and immediately feels “greener” than their neighbor with the gas-guzzling SUV. They feel better and more environmentally responsible with every mile they drive. It is the action of driving that makes them “green.” The same goes for a CLF light bulb. They feel better about themselves each and every time they turn on the lights. The simple action of switching on the light enables them to feel like an environmental “activist” – that they are making a difference.

You said you wanted a green car...

You said you wanted a green car...

The environmental benefit doesn’t come from the company making the Prius or the CFL light bulb. The “goodness” comes from the consumer using the product instead of an alternative product. A Prius isn’t a car – it is an environmental tool for the consumer. The CFL light bulb doesn’t just provide light – it provides the consumer with an opportunity to make a difference through the simple action of flipping the switch.

The success of these “green” products lies in enabling the consumer to take action. The act of making a difference through using these products makes them successful. So many green failures can be traced back to lacking this fundamental element – allowing consumers to feel “green” each time they use a product. When all the “goodness” is in the making of the product and not in the using of the product, no other action is expected from the consumer. The only action the consumer needs to take is buying the product. But the act of buying is not perceived as an act of environmental activism. This doesn’t allow the consumer to feel that they are taking environmental action.

Buying a green product, that’s green qualities are all in the production phase, leaves the consumer with a very basic question: what about me?

You want to sell a green product? Then let your consumer be part of the “greenness.” Give them something that they can do apart from just buying the product. Give them a way to take action. Let it be easy – like starting a Prius or flipping a light switch. Give consumers simple actions that make them feel like they are making a difference each and every time they use your product. Let them be part of the change.

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More green stuff from me:

Can I interest you in a green Blow Up Doll?

Okay, so I don’t really want you to buy a blowup doll. Not even a green one. But it seems as if we think consumers will buy anything green – or rather that a green product will have an edge over competing not-so-green products. Consumers might be more interested in the environmental factors of a…

How friendly is eco-friendly?

Every single day we are bombarded by someone telling us to be more eco-friendly in our lives – and the choices we make. But can we really be eco-friendly? …

What’s the emissions of your local warlord’s car – and do you care?

Man, these umlungu’s over here really like their big cars. Okay, not all of them. And I have more of a problem with those who don’t drive big cars than those who do. They are all up in arms about the impact on global climate and the emissions by these big trucks – bakkies back…

It’s not always greener on the other side

Everything is green nowadays. It’s the talk of the town. Newspapers are full of the latest green apocalypse heading our way. Bloggers blog green left, right and center – with fonts and pictures to match. Activist are up in arms about green washing and washing our greens. Governments want to govern what green means. The…

We eat meat – get used to it

Being green or protecting wildlife means almost nothing outside US and Europe. There are bigger issues facing people in places like Burundi, Guyana, Yemen and North Korea. They continue to struggle to survive each day. The cheapest bidder always wins when you live off less than $1 a day. And you don’t know if there…

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Okay, so I don’t really want you to buy a blowup doll. Not even a green one. But it seems as if we think consumers will buy anything green – or rather that a green product will have an edge over competing not-so-green products. Consumers might be more interested in the environmental factors of a product than before, but it is hit and miss. Not every green product will have an edge over competitors. Consumers are still driven by a myriad number of decision making filters when they decide to buy something.

We are told price always counts as number one. Not really. Functionality is generally number one. People buy something because they can use it and expect it to have certain functions. It’s not the only filter they use, but it is a central one. You won’t buy a car if you really want a kettle. Yes, you might be able to boil some water on the engine, but I bet you that’s not why you want the FJ Cruiser. It must be able to do something for you – something you want done. It might be practical (like a kettle) or something more emotional (like a FJ Cruiser). But it will have some function.

Price is important. A $1.99 won’t buy you that meal at Uno’s, but might get you something at McDonald’s. But would you still go there if you had $50 to blow on a meal? That’s an awful lot of Big Macs. You buy what you can afford – or what your credit limit can afford.

Look, feel and ‘coolness’ are other factors that people will use as filters. These are just a few in a very long list, but consumers tend to think through these in a split second. It’s not a conscious tick-box approach. It’s just something we are conditioned to use. That’s why ads try and link into our filters – it’s cool, it’s functional, and it will make you unbelievably attractive – don’t you want hair like that?

And now mainstream consumers are getting a bit more interested in the green factor as well. It still needs to be functional, but people generally want to know that it doesn’t come with a chunk of earth lost forever. And it is easy for consumers to make that choice when the green factor comes at no or little price difference – and when the environmental impact (or guilt) comes with the product. Buying a hybrid – easy, you know the impact that your car will have and you might just as well buy it if is functional enough, cool enough, at the right price etc. Same with light bulbs and food. No harm done – and generally not enough to hurt the wallet.

But what about diamonds or houses or clothes? There is a hidden guilt in these type of products. And our other needs will override our need to be greener. We know that we are already guilty of blowing money when we buy a diamond. Telling them that it is not green or that it comes from conflict areas won’t stop them from buying it. It’s a Tiffany’s ring and she wants it – we can just hope that Tiffany’s care enough for both of us. And forking out a lifetime of savings to buy or build a house makes you feel bad enough already. It’s the biggest investment you will make in your lifetime, but you will still blow an obscene amount of money – don;t even think of what you could have done with that money (Red Sox season tickets, a trip to Disney for the kids, Tiffany’s ring, and still have enough for the FJ Cruiser). And for that amount of money you want the best quality at the best price – and you really don’t care if it is green or not. Yes, you’ll tinker around the edges – if you have the luxury to spend a few bucks more to make it green. But in most cases you just want to save some money before you go bankrupt – and move the family in before the in-laws kick you out.

And clothes? It’s got to be either the hottest new brand or cheapest alternative – depending on where you stand on fashion and being cool. Either way, you don’t care much about the green factor of your clothes – you just want to wear it. Great if it is green, but don’t expect the brand or price factor to be influenced by the green factor. And we also know that there is a high probability that someone was exploited somewhere to ensure you have these clothes to wear. So who cares whether it is green or not – people already suffered making your clothes and you just switch off the guilt button when buying the clothes in the first place.

Green factors will continue to play a role – and hopefully more each day. But people will still buy what they want to buy at the price they want to pay. And sometimes they will pay a bit more for something that is green. Or buy an alternative brand if it is greener but still functional, cool and at the right price. But sometimes green will mean nothing. Not when we have so many other things to worry about – who made it, how many people got hurt or killed making it. We just switch off when it comes to certain products. Thinking about the impact on people or the planet would be too much for the average consumer to think about. Just keep Pandora’s box closed thank you.

So, don’t expect anyone to think about the environmental impact of blowup dolls soon? No one is worried whether Candy was made with renewable energy and made of recycled plastic.

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