Jacquie Ottman's
Green Marketing Blog

Consumers Really Can Save the World

Annie Leonard for President! Would that we all had her ability to hone in on the issues and communicate them to regular people with such clarity. Check out her new video, The Story of Change, above.

In it, Annie moves into “Season 2” of her efforts to help change the world by encouraging people to take action as citizens, not just as consumers. She posits that green consuming is necessary, but must be a starting, not an ending,  point. We must change the system in which consuming takes place — the corporate practices and the government policies that result in toxic products and sick people. I couldn’t agree more.

However, I think she misses a beat when describing the responsibilities of consumers. Of course, we all have to buy things, so it can only help to buy green(er) products. I think we have to take this one important step further. Shoppers need to know when NOT to shop and importantly, HOW to use the stuff better that they buy.

Shared Responsibility
Green marketing and consumerism will have failed if all we see it as is a way for consumers to relieve the guilt associated with buying green(er) stuff. It will succeed — and hence, make a bigger contribution than she gives it credit for — if we at the same time instill in consumers the notion NOT TO BUY what they don’t need, and to use the products they do buy more responsibly (e.g., turn the water off when they brush with Tom’s of Maine toothpaste, and to flip the switch on the Energy Star rated light bulbs when they leave the room, and to  recycle Coke cans after use. (OK, buying a Coke in the first place is another matter altogether.  Let’s save that for another discussion.))

I’m also heartened to see how much sharing is being made possible by the internet, because that  can cut down on consumption and waste, too.

in addition to putting their citizen caps on as Annie suggests, there are many other ways that consumers can and should do more. When encouraging people to change the corporate practices and government policies, we can’t continue to make the mistake of taking the onus off consumers and shifting it to corporations and governments who exist to serve them as consumers as well as citizens.

Stay Tuned
I’ve been doing some serious thinking about this topic during the past  few years. I’ll be talking more about this on this blog and in other venues shortly. Subscribe now to stay posted.

Jacquelyn Ottman is an expert adviser on green marketing to Fortune 500 firms, entreprenuerial companies, and the U.S. government. She is the author ofThe New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding (Berrett-Koehler, 2011)

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