Posted by: lucylastic | November 5, 2007

How green is YOUR valley?

As part of a project at work, I became involved in an exercise to ‘profile’ the ‘Green Consumer’.  Before you go running for the hills, I thought I’d share with you some things that I have come across in a few very short minutes of searching:  “Green revolution now mainstream” says NCC (that’s the National Consumer Council, if you’re interested), in this month’s ‘In-Store’ magazine.  ‘Biodegradable car could clean up Formula 1’, reports The Independent on Sunday – furthermore, its inventors, at Warwick University, will start work on it in the New Year, ‘probably using coconuts’, (although they don’t explain whether they’ll be for bodywork or for fuel) and plan ‘soon to be racing it competitively’. Apparently, they have already successfully constructed a sports car using materials such as hemp, potatoes and rape-seed, which achieves 150mph – I want one!!!!  

Still on things ‘green’, I am a big fan of cooking – but even that hasn’t gone untouched, in fact, everything we eat seems to be under huge (and contradictory) scrutiny on a daily basis.  ‘Ethical’ company Innocent Drinks have been trying to work out the carbon footprint of their (admittedly delicious) smoothies, (reports BBC Good Food).  In collaboration with the Carbon Trust and the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Management, Innocent have found out that transporting it’s Mango and Passion Fruit Smoothie resulted in relatively low emissions, but creating the packaging caused much higher emissions.  Does anyone really care?  Couldn’t anyone have figured that out all by themselves?  What exactly did the Crabon Trust tell them that they didn’t know already?  Putting things into lorries and sending them up and down the motorways usies expensive fossil fuel and emits noxious gases.  Go figure! 

The reason I am asking is simple – if one wants to jump on the green band wagon – from either a personal or corporate perspective, how important is it that your own green credentials stand up to scrutiny?  Like so many things, it’s all about perception rather than reality.  It seems the whole world has gone Green, but that can’t be true can it?  A recent poll ranked Dyson, (who I work for) as number 7 in the ‘Top 10 ‘Green’ Companies, (as voted by UK consumers).  Another poll, supposedly carried out in US and UK had the following list of names as ‘Top 10 Green Brands – ‘Whole Foods’, ‘Wild Oats’, Trader Joe’s, Toyota, Honda, Sub Zero, Ikea, Body Shop, GE and Aveda.  Although similar numbers of people were canvassed, (around 1500 each in US and UK), it seems the US scores have been weighted, as the first 3 names on the list are US ‘home grown’ companies, who don’t have big corporate presences in UK.  Anyway, the point is this.  If you want to be green, all you need to do these days is chuck some PR out there saying you are green and ‘voila’, perceptions start to change.  How GE with their terrible record on pollution and waste management can make it on to anyone’s Top 10 baffles me. 

So, am I green, (or ‘ethical’ or ‘ecological’ or ‘responsible’ as a consumer?  Not very, I don’t think.  Having said that, I recently received a letter from my local council voting me ‘champagne bottle re-cycler of the decade’, which cheered me up no end – it’s nice to be recognised for one’s efforts isn’t it? 😉  I do religiously recycle my bottles and jars and have been toying with the idea of composting for some while now, I just haven’t done anything about it.  But I can feel a compost bin purchase coming on, (I know, I know, I am meant to make it out or bits of recycled plank, but one has to draw the line somewhere, and let’s face it, they wouldn’t sell them if people didn’t want to buy them).  I’ve even read a couple of articles about the importance of balancing the contents of one’s compost heap, so consider myself something of an expert, (not too much newspaper nor too many grass clippings, lots of carrot peel and potato bits and the leaves from cabbages, NO cooked food).  I feel we may need to increase our fresh vegetable consumption though – especially in comparison to our waste paper generation levels.  When will they EVER realise that no one, not any one at all, ever, ever reads the free weekly local papers, full of ads for double glazing and furniture stores – they go straight to the rubbish pile in our house, as I am sure they do in yours!  I’ve also long been buying free range eggs – mostly because I feel guilty about the battery chickens – I’m sorry, but I cannot taste the difference between them. 

For those of you who are still reading, you may be interested to know that TGI, (Target Group Index), much beloved of Media Buyers everywhere, defines a ‘Green’ consumer as follows: ‘Adults who are concerned about the environment and take actions to be more environmentally friendly’. And in the UK, they form a whacking 40% of the adult population – that’s a BIG segment.  More importantly, in my mind anyway, is the rider to this statement – ‘This includes those who are willing to pay a premium for green goods and services, as well as those who are not’.  

And therein lies the rub as far as I am concerned.  I don’t mind doing a bit of recycling, and I may even start a compost bin with things I was throwing out anyway, but I am NOT prepared to part with money to be ‘greener’, not generally, anyway.  I HATE those horrible ‘long life bulbs’ with their harsh, fluorescent light, I LIKE using lighting as decorative effect and pay my monthly bill without grumbling and when it really comes down to it, whether I switch my light bulbs on and off every time I leave a room makes not a jot of difference in the long run.  It’s businesses who pollute, and street lighting that comes on while it’s still light and stays on and water companies who let millions of gallons trickle away daily because of bad pipe maintenance that ought to be targeted.  But the consumer is an easy option – we’re sitting ducks, the Councils know where all the good, decent, law-abiding ones are – the ones who pay more and more for waste disposal and get fewer and fewer collections each year, the ones who save on car trips by getting their local Ocado service to deliver their shopping, the ones who buy organic fruit and veg and meat anyway.  They know where we are, and they’re watching us.  We shouldn’t be complacent. 

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