Jacquie Ottman's
Green Marketing Blog

The Newest Rule of Green Marketing: Help Consumers Live a ‘No-Waste’ Lifestyle

Swedes at a train station

The Swedes Enjoy the Most Sustainable Lifestyle in the World (Image credit: Melker Dahlstrand/imagebnk.sweden.se)

In 1988, my antenna tweaked toward an emerging trend soon to be called ‘green consumerism’.  A hole in the ozone layer was discovered over Antarctica, nightly newscasts tracked the daily wanderings of the Mobro garbage barge, and air pollution clogged views of the Grand Canyon. Among the culprits: consumer products.

Alternatives needed to be found for CFCs in aerosols, polystyrene clamshells and disposable baby diapers. To move existing greener alternatives off the dusty shelves of health food stores into mainstream supermarkets, marketers needed help shifting messages from ‘saving the planet’ and ‘sparing the daisies’ to the more immediate, benefits of ‘saving money’ and ‘protecting health’.

So I Joined the Environmental Movement
Armed with over a decade’s worth of experience helping P&G and other marketers sell shampoo and potato chips from my perch on Madison Avenue, I jumped ship and joined the environmental movement.  A self-described ‘environmental marketer’, my goal: apply the skills I learned from America’s savviest marketers to help spread the word about ‘greener’ choices, and generate ideas for new ones.

For the past 25 years, my colleagues and I have been busy supporting the launch of ecolabels like Energy Star and USDA Certified Biobased. We’ve strategized for HSBC’s Effie-awarding winning ‘No Small Change’ campaign, and helped GE, IBM, 3M and other sustainability leaders develop credible appeals of their own.  For everybody else, I’ve summarized the lessons into five books, including my latest, The New Rules of Green Marketing (Berrett-Koehler, 2011) and How to Make Credible Green Marketing Claims (Advertising Age, 2013).

Next Up: Lean and Luxurious
I’ve now decided to devote the next 25 years helping businesses apply my newest rule of green marketing: offer practical solutions that can help consumers thrive during the leaner years ahead.  With 9.5 billion people expected on the planet by 2050, and 3 billion more moving into the middle class by 2030, there’s not a moment to waste.

Fresh water, food, petroleum and various kinds of materials are expected to be in short supply; environmental degradation and climate change will only add to the enormity of the task. The watchwords will be ‘efficiency’, ‘value’, ‘green’, and ‘credible’.  With consumers historically reluctant to trade off their comfy lifestyles for the sake of ‘the planet’, smart businesses will help consumers toss the throwaway culture and live a new attractive ‘no-waste’  lifestyle in which ‘reduce’ and ‘reuse’ become the new ‘recycle.’

What Does a No-Waste Lifestyle Look Like?
What are the implications for the future size of our homes and the length of our commutes (if we commute at all)? Will peer-to-peer sharing and swapping replace shopping and ‘stuff’? How do we make it economically feasible for the next generation of products to be repairable, upcyclable, and durable like their counterparts before the post-War generation drank the disposable (and likely plastic) Kool-Aid?

These are the questions my colleagues and I are attempting to answer by engaging with a new online community that we launched in January of 2013.  At WeHateToWaste.com, influential consumers and brands from all over the world come together to share strategies and tips for cutting down on wasted food, water, energy — you name it — at home and work; their quest: save money, time and space, cast a lighter footprint, and stay in sync with their ethics.

What Comes After Cloth Shopping Bags?
A group who long ago integrated the ‘50 Simple Things’ deep within their psyches and habits, the ardent waste watchers who frequent WeHateToWaste.com are now in search of the next cloth shopping bag, the next refillable water bottle, and the next ceramic coffee mug.  One step ahead of everyone else, they share stories of how they now tote a washable ‘People Towel’ in their purse and gym bags, carry a reusable metal ‘Tiffin’ to help cut down on the to-go packaging waste, and shake rattle and roll the Pantene bottle in pursuit of every last drop.

The Millenials, in particular — the shoppers of tomorrow — are already in the process of shifting loyalties to a new generation of brands intent on helping them balance sustainability sensitivities with stretched budgets.  Growing up with recycling as a matter of course, they are now embracing ‘refuse’, ‘reduce’, and ‘reuse’ to guide their purchases; armed with smartphones and iPads, they are borrowing, swapping and sharing with peers.  The brands and products they are taking up residence with include: Lush’s ‘Naked’ personal care products, Patagonia’s Worn Wear, Levi’s Care Instructions for the Planet, AirBnB, and Carpooling.com.

Stop By WeHateToWaste.com
As a run-up to the Sustainable Brands ‘14 conference in June, where I will be on hand to tell the WeHateToWaste.com story live for the very first time, we are publishing a series of three articles sharing some of the insights we’ve been gleaning about the new behaviors our community is adopting, the brands they are embracing, and their unmet needs as they attempt to integrate waste-watching ethics into their modern, on-the-go lifestyles.

If you get a moment, stop by WeHateToWaste.com and join in on the many important conversations going on 24/7. If you’ve got a brand that already helps consumers live leaner, or you want to figure out how to inspire employees to create some leaner yet sexy solutions of your own, consider partnering with us.

Want to learn more? Link here to check out a short powerpoint that will lay out the opportunities in more detail.

Partner Presentation

Green marketers, it took a while, but you’re on the way to finally ditching what I’ve long called ‘the babies, planets and daisies’.  Are you now ready to go lean?

Originally published at SustainableBrands.com  April 10, 2014

Jacquelyn Ottman is founder and principal of J. Ottman Consulting, Inc. NYC-based experts on green marketing and eco-innovation. She is the author of The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools, and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding (Berrett-Koehler 2011). In 2013, her firm launched WeHateToWaste.com, an online global community of consumers looking to prevent household waste, conserve natural resources and get the most from the products they buy.

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