Being Green: Green Consumers

Hi Folks:

Friday once again, and time for this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post.  The title for this post was inspired by a couple of articles I read this week.  The first was, “It’s not easy being a green consumer“, and it begins with:

Green consumerism has the ring of being an oxymoron, but we all need to consume to live. One could go crazy trying to be totally consistent (even Gandhi realized that). Buying less and local are good starts. Combining that with some research and exercising common sense could go a long way, it seems, towards making us all more responsible consumers. (GW)

The title intrigued me because my first ‘Being Green’ blog post here was titled, “It’s not easy being green… is it?

Although I have worked in sales over the years, marketing isn’t really my thing.  I’ll leave that to people like Seth Godin instead.  Still, as I understand it, marketing is more about ‘awareness’ than it is about ‘selling’.  There’s an underlying assumption that people will always want to consume things, and so the marketer’s job is to steer them toward or away from a specific product.  It doesn’t matter if said product is food, an automobile or a politician running for re-election.

There’s no question that terms like ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ are commonplace in our language today.  In fact it’s getting to the point that we’re achieving saturation now, and people are more willing to assume that almost every product available today has some ‘green’ purpose.  That’s not true of course, but the value of ‘green’ today as a marketing term is certainly less than it once was.  In a way that’s a good thing because it means that more and more people are becoming aware of environmental issues and how their day to day existence impacts the lives of everyone and everything else on the planet.  One thing I do question, however, is why so much ‘green’ marketing is negative-based.  We’re told over and over about the pitiable condition of the planet and how it’s bound to get worse before it gets better, no matter what we do.  We’re fed information through the media and pass it along from one to the other about the impacts of this or that, the latest tragedies around the world and more.  And all of this combined, it seems to me, makes being a ‘green’ consumer a bitter pill to swallow.  As the old adage goes, one attracts more flies with honey than vinegar, but we’ve become so accustomed to negative messages in our lives that we tend to discount the obverse as being flippant or immaterial.  Imagine marketing the ideas of being ‘green’ as living healthier, more active, more fulfilling lives, with fewer medical conditions, improved environmental health and, dare I say it, a ‘greener’ planet as a result!  Imagining selling ‘green’, not as a way of forestalling the inevitable disasters to come, but as a viable alternative, a way that people would actually want to live.  Are we so pre-conditioned as to assume that words like trust, hope, joy, love, and green, sustainable, long-term must have a hook attached to them?  If we are, how do we change that?

Marcia and I do our best to live a ‘green’ lifestyle every day, in the choices we make about what and how much we purchase, in the foods we eat, the clothes we wear, and our overall attitudes toward life.  We choose to live this way because we believe it’s a better way to be, and we’re happier for it.  We invite you to do the same!

The second article mentioned at the top is “Best Buy Launches Excellent New Buy Back Program”  The essence of the idea is that when one purchases an electronic device from Best Buy, there’s an option to pay an extra fee at the time of purchase; this fee entitles the purchaser to a discount on their purchase of a replacement device.  Best Buy will accept the return of the original device and either refurbish and sell it or recycle it as they see fit.  The kicker is that such a replacement purchase must be made within two years.  Last I checked there were 84 comments to this article, widely ranging in opinion.  Some were of the opinion that this is a good idea, some rejected it as a ploy to encourage people to shop at this business over others, but most of the comments were targeted toward the return period of two years – citing that such a policy promotes even greater consumerism.

For my part, I think the base concept is a good one, and it reminds me of an article I read last year about essentially ‘renting’ electronics instead of purchasing them.   At end of life one would return the device to the manufacturer.  Similarly, in 2000 the European Union passed the ELV Directive, which makes automobile manufacturers responsible for the end of life disposal and recycling of their vehicles.  However, I also disagree with Best Buy’s two-year policy.  If we’ve descended to a level where a given device has an expected lifespan of only two years, we have some major changes to make in terms of production.  At the same time, Best Buy’s policy is strictly voluntary, and rejecting it out of hand denies it the possibility to evolve into something better.

Another option of course is to make one’s purchase, keep the item for as long as it has use, and then either donate it or recycle it yourself.  Here in Victoria there are quite a number of stores selling used goods that accept donations from the community.  The ‘free store’ concept is growing in popularity all over; here in the Gulf Islands there are free store depots on at least six of the islands.  Basically a ‘free store’ is exactly what the name implies.  One who has goods no longer needed simply brings them there, and someone who has need of an item simply takes it away.  Here in BC there are also great facilities for electronics recycling through the Encorp ‘Return-It Electronics‘ locations.  I suggest people look to see what’s available where they live.  The ‘Recycling Council of British Columbia‘ website is also a great resource for recycling information.

The so-called ‘three Rs’ are: Reduce/ Reuse/ Recycle (in that order), but there’s a fourth one as well… Reject.  Consumers as a whole drive the economy in which we live, so by making wise choices as to the products we prefer, the entire world can be transformed.

Okay, the links for this week include:

Okay, that’s it for now.   Have a great week!
Mike.

P.S. A little something to celebrate: Women + Girls / 23 Ideas / 1 Vision and It’s time for Women to Partner with Men for Value Creation.

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