Wholesome Marketing Ideas, Bite Size

Wholesome marketing ideas, bite size

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Green consumers, Canada?

It’s official as of early December 2011. Canada gave up on its Kyoto commitments. The Canadian government has announced its intention to withdraw. There was no way we were going to meet the targets anyway, so why suffer the embarrassment of failure when you can quit in a huff and pretend it is someone else’s fault?
Green indicates countries that have ratified the treaty; Dark green are Annex I and II countries that have ratified the treaty; Grey is not yet decided; Brown is no intention of ratifying; Red is Canada, which announced its intention to withdraw in Dec 2011.*

Whose fault do we say it is?

We point the finger at China and India of course. They are the primary polluting culprits, the bad guys who will not accept caps on their emissions.

So here’s the picture. Over the past 20 years or so, we have shifted huge amounts of production to China. In particular, we have outsourced some really dirty, heavily polluting industries such as plastics and batteries and electronics. We just import the clean end product. And when we’re done using the products, we send them to landfills and product dis-assembly and recycling centers – in China and India.

But despite off-shoring the polluting ends of the product cycle, we’re still among the largest producers of Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GGEs); our carbon footprint is among the worst in the world. And China? Each Canadian still has a carbon footprint seven times larger than the average person in China. And that average person in China gets stuck being accountable for emissions from the making and moving of products that are consumed in Canada.

Ok, so we have good reasons for our filthy emissions. We live in a cold climate where homes need to be heated six to nine months a year; and we live in a big country where goods and people have to travel long distances; and we’re developing the tar sands that will provide the U.S. with its oil needs for a few decades to come. And oh yes, we have big homes and SUVs. And our dishwashers and lawn mowers don’t help either, but they are necessities of life. And it turns out we’re also fond of producing garbage. Lots of it. Each one of us throws away almost a kilo of garbage every day. No, that does not include recycling.

Much as we like to blame our government or corporations or the tar sands for not being green, the fact is, most of our pollution is still the result of individual consumer decisions. Cars and houses, dishwashers and lawn mowers, and packaging. And when consumers choose to reduce their footprint, institutions will quickly follow. 

But what will it take for consumers to want to cut their carbon footprint? Environmental awareness is hardly new (surely the phosphorous in the rivers in the early 1970s was a wake up call), and nor is awareness of climate change. Yet our emissions, pollution, and garbage production have continued to grow faster than the population. 

Unlike with foreign or defense policy, if your government declares war on the environment it is not considered treasonous for you to be friendly towards it.

Don’t find fault. Find a remedy. – Henry Ford

* By Kyoto_Protocol_participation_map_2009.png: *Kyoto_Protocol_participation_map_2009.png: Users Emturan on en.wikipedia derivative work: Emturan (talk) derivative work: ELEKHHT (Kyoto_Protocol_participation_map_2009.png) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons


Kamal said...

Consumers generally do what is in their own self-interest. While in a general, idealized way, they want to do what is good for the environment, they don't really get rewarded for it.

The solution? Price polluting activities, so that they are more expensive then activities that are good for the environment. Then people who do good for the environment will be rewarded financially. People will change.

Why spend a ton of money marketing an idea (green consumption)? Use money to bribe/incent consumers instead, and they will act ...

Niraj Dawar said...

Hi Kamal, good to hear from you.
in a fascinating study, a daycare introduced a fine for parents who picked up their kids late. The result: more parents arrived late to pick up their kids. They were willing to pay the price, where earlier they were motivated to be on time due to peer pressure, guilt and shame. Monetary inducements are not the only incentives for human behavior. For the full daycare study, see here: http://heinonline.org/HOL/Page?handle=hein.journals/legstud29&div=7&g_sent=1&collection=journals