the TAO of CHANGE

a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

Posts Tagged ‘green fatigue’

Friday, June 20th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

According to a recent article in the NY Times, market research done by the Shelton Group, consumers surveyed in 2007 were between 22 and 55 percent less likely to buy green products than in 2006. That’s more than HALF as likely to prioritize sustainability. What’s up? This sounds crazy, considering the increase of information and availability of green alternatives to just about everything. According to this study, that seems to be precisely the problem – green information overload. Also known as green fatigue, or eco-burnout.

Environmental organizations, working hard to reach and keep a reluctant “soft middle” (meaning, most of us) are scrambling to simplify their message by offering “cheat sheets” to being more sustainable and a “tiered” system of choices according to how much you are ready to do for change. Although I’m all for anything that will get the many balls rolling, but I’m not so sure we can afford to dial back what has barely gotten started. We’ve reached one of what is bound to be many bumps in the road to Change – let’s not turn back now. It’s time to evolve.

It’s fairly obvious that it was lack of information and truth that got us here, so it’s time to keep talking, not rationalize away our efforts. Denying “consumers” information about the industrial process certainly wasn’t an accident – marketers knew that there were some things better left unsaid. The popular quote by Paul McCartney, “If slaughter houses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian”, speaks loudly about all types of consumer habits. If we actually could see the sweatshops, the polluted waters, the chemicals and the waste – most of us would automatically be more conscious participants in the economy.

Unfortunately, transparency in the corporate world has never been suggested, let alone encouraged or required. With governments still slow to regulate “business as usual”, we are left with not much but the hope that consumers will make informed, social and environmental choices when available. When it comes to information, this is when we should be asking for more, not less. When it seems and feels complicated, we can start with our common sense – we know more than we think – and we can change more than we think. We’re at that familiar crossroads when there are only two roads to travel upon and one is no longer an option. We are in the midst of a social and cultural evolution.

When I was a kid and easily overwhelmed with learning, my father used to say, “Put on your thinking cap”. It always worked.

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