Selling Sustainability

Interesting post in The Guardian this week about steps businesses can–and should–be taking to promote sustainable behaviors:

Research shows that changing people’s habits through sheer force of persuasion is hard, especially if their surroundings stay the same.

Marketing campaigns can try to encourage people to live more sustainably, but “it’s entirely in the hands of the consumer whether they do or not,” says Lucy Shea, CEO of sustainable communications agency Futerra. “It rests entirely on the efficacy of that campaign, and often behavior change doesn’t result.”

An alternative is for brands to “build in behavior change so there is no choice but to use a product in a lower impact way,” says Shea. Innovations that push people towards sustainable living without preaching can range from large-scale infrastructure such as cycle hire schemes, to hair-cleaning products.

“Dry shampoo is one of my favorite examples. It was never made to be environmental, it was made basically for ease,” says Shea. “But the result of being able to spray your hair between washes, and therefore wash it less, is actually the same as all of these worthy environmental campaigns asking you to spend less time in the shower.”

Smart technology has great potential for designing sustainability into everyday life. Parcel carrier UPS, for example, has programmed its truck drivers’ navigation systems to minimize the amount of fuel they use for each journey. On American roads, turning left at a junction leads to higher fuel consumption because drivers have to wait to cross an extra lane of traffic before they can turn. By programming their drivers’ route maps to avoid left turns, UPS makes sure they drive more efficiently.

Smart thermostats in homes go further still, not just guiding consumers but acting sustainably on their behalf. The “learning thermostat” designed by the former head of iPods at Apple, for example, can sense whether anyone is at home, or what the weather is like, and adjust the house’s temperature accordingly. According to the BBC, its makers claim it can cut household heating bills by 20-30%.

Read the full article here.



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