Marketing 'Cool' Lifestyles Key to Selling Clean and Green Products

Marketing 'Cool' Lifestyles Key to Selling Clean and Green Products

The United Nations Environment Program is enlisting psychologists and human behaviorists in a pioneering new initiative to save the planet.

Experts believe that the traditional messages from governments and green groups, urging the public to adopt environmentally friendly life-styles and purchasing habitats, need to be overhauled.

There is concern that many of these messages are too "guilt-laden" and disapproving and instead of "turning people on" to the environment are switching them off.

Said Klaus Toepfer, executive director of UNEP, "Messages from governments, exhorting people to drive their cars less or admonishing them for buying products that cause environmental damage, appear not to be working. People are simply not listening. Making people feel guilty about their lifestyles and purchasing habits is achieving only limited success."

Studies indicate that only 5% of the public in northern countries is embracing so-called sustainable lifestyles and sustainable consumerism.

"So we need to look again at how we enlist the public to reduce pollution and live in ways that cause minimal environmental damage. We need to make sustainable life-styles fashionable and 'cool' as young people might say. We also need to make it clear that there are real, personal, benefits to living in harmony with the planet," he said.

UNEP experts cited campaigns by KIA, the Korean car manufacturer, and the European detergent industry, as two examples of selling positive, environmentally friendly consumerism and lifestyles.

KIA has a campaign in the United Kingdom that urges people not to use cars for short journeys, only long-distance ones. It provides a mountain bike with every new car purchased and helps organize "walking buses." These create networks of parents who assist in escorting children to school on foot.

The European "Wash Right" campaign extols the virtues of low-temperature washing by emphasizing the benefits to the clothes as well as the energy it saves.

Spearheading the new emphasis on social science in communicating environmental goals is UNEP's Sustainable Consumption Program and Life-Cycle Initiative. The program compliments a range of initiatives to develop a network of cleaner production centers across the globe to reduce polluting manufacturing processes.