What’s the greater risk: Nonylphenolethoxylate or showing your knickers at the Oscars?

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

This blog post originally appeared on the ThreeWorlds website

Here’s a values dilemma.

When Bond-girl and Pirates of the Caribbean actress Naomie Harris previewed an eco-dress for The Oscars, a slew of mainstream media and blogs like The Daily MailOMG Yahoo, and The Sun all ran the story, leading on the risk of ‘the split’ showing her knickers.

Deep in the background, behind the role of designers Michael Badger and Vivienne Westwood, who had created the dress under the wing of ‘Red Carpet Green Dress’ ‘an international dress design contest started by Suzy Amis Cameron, environmental advocate and wife of Director James Cameron’, Greenpeace had a hand in the process through it’s Detox campaign. Its own blog by campaigner Valeria Botte Coca announced ‘Bond Girl helps Detox the Oscars’.

When I looked, the Greenpeace post had received two comments, one of which read:

“Hausson says: I’d love to know the Nonylphenolethoxylate content of this dress.  That would really increase your transparency, which at the moment is kind of dubious.”

Well yes and no but thanks Hausson because you’ve crystallised the dilemma which faces campaigners from ethically motivated Pioneer-dominated organisations when they need to influence Prospectors, and you can’t get a lot more Prospector than the fashion industry, celebrity and The Oscars. Namely, can you, should you, get involved in a way that works?

The Prospectors
Who are Prospectors? They are 60-75% of the population of China and India, the majority in most emerging economies and the epitomy of the fun-loving success oriented mainstream in any country. In terms of change, if the Prospectors embrace “sustainability”, it will happen, and can happen fast: if they don’t, it won’t.

Are they interested? Well yes, multi-country surveys we’ve been running for Greenpeace (no, I didn’t work on the Detox campaign) show again and again that the Prospectors, at least the uber-fashion conscious Now People Prospector Values Mode, are as keen to be ‘green’ as anyone but it has to be in a way that meets their values.

That’s where groups like Red Carpet Green DressGlobal Cool and JoinRed are on the money by starting-from-where-the-audience-is. Because ‘looking good’ and having a good time is truly important, it means that the biggest risk for Naomie Harris at the Oscars really was the “cringe pants flash” and not actually, the possible presence of Nonylphenolethoxylate.

Disaster Averted
Fortunately in this case, as the celeb media noted, disaster was averted: ‘Bond girl Naomie risks Oscars wardrobe malfunction in golden slit dress’ but Naomie managed to keep her modestly very much covered as she walked the red carpet.

In terms of environmental outcomes, what we’re seeing here is the fruits of a long struggle by campaigners, concerned scientists and other very Pioneer groups to recognize the threats posed by toxic pollution and get substances such as Nonylphenolethoxylate phased out. Plus a realisation that the way to do it isn’t always by simply talking about the need to do it.

The use of non-toxic and organic materials in Naomie’s dress was combined with re-use of materials. This enabled several media bloggers to focus on the more-interesting-to-us  question of whether she had eaten the chocolates that were once in the candy wrappers used in the golden garment: a good example of ‘being interesting’, not just significant.

The trend for re-use (upcycling, embellishment, swishing etc) of materials in fashion has been discussed at this site previously, as an example of something mainstreaming; spreading from Pioneer to Prospector audiences. The Now People bible Grazia magazine pointed out that alongside Naomie, a rival ‘green’ dress appeared at the Oscars, one from Prospector retail brand H & M, worn by Helen Hunt. Grazia wrote:

“So as well as Stella McCartney visibly leading the way with her sustainable fabrics and (sexy) vegan shoes, Sophia Kokosalaki launched an ethically conscious capsule range on ASOS called Kore and the website’s existing Africa range is top notch trend-ticking stuff.

We’ve noticed a real rise in upcycling (using existing clothing to create new pieces), but it’s high fashion labels like Edun (designed by Bono’s wife Ali Hewson), Suno, Henrietta Ludgate and Ada Zandition that are leading the way. Many more brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and Vivienne Westwood are following suit, and starting to dip into the sustainable sphere with dedicated sub ranges or accessory lines. Watch this space ladies, sustainable fashion just got serious.” 

Converting ‘an issue’ into a story about real people doesn’t just attract Prospectors. The Daily Mail has a lot of Settler readers, too and older women across the board, as perhaps reflected in its tetchy headline “She’d better be wearing granny pants!” and the Mail managed to convert the green dimension to a grumble: “While it might be revealing, the dress itself is at least good for the environment – it is made from recycled materials”.

Similarly, the Huffington Post, much loved by Pioneer posters, reportedprudishly “Naomie Harris’ Oscar Dress Features Way Too Much Leg For Our Comfort”. For other eco-fashion coverage of that dress, which would be read by younger Pioneers and Prospectors see Ecorazzi and RollingOut.  Meanwhile Michael Badger’s involvement spread the story to ghanaweb.com: Ghanaian designs Naomie Harris’ 2013 Oscar dress. For a Pioneeresque report on the ‘bigger picture’ see the “back story” in LA Times.

Strategy Questions
Clearly, The Oscars are not an opportunity for an ecotoxicology lecture, and Greenpeace’s GP Detox campaign has been amazingly successful, using a mixture of classic Pioneer protest tactics and Prospector-slanted communications. BrandChannel reported a month or two ago that it rolled over retail giant Zara in just nine days, leaving Benetton, C&A, Calvin Klein, Diesel, Emporio Armani, Esprit, Gap, Levi’s, Mango, Tommy Hilfiger, Victoria’s Secret, and China’s Meters/bonwe apparel brand on the ‘Toxic Threads blacklist’.

So whether its’ about health or human rights or environment, Pioneer type campaign groups can deploy strategy to catalyse and cascade change through other more Prospector messengers, actors and channels which mainstream the change.  So long as they resist the Nonylphenolethoxylate-temptation (N-factor?), it can work.

Yet there’s a political and social limitation in such strategic stealth. If you want to have political clout, to play an active role in social conversations that reach beyond the “usual suspects”, and to ‘mobilise’ society more widely, you need to develop the capability to talk to Prospectors, Settlers and Pioneers.

Many Pioneers may take the view that it doesn’t matter who gets the credit, so long as you get the result and that is often true but Prospectors in general, do not see it that way, and if you need to enlist them, that’s a problem. Prospectors err more to the Oscar Wilde view that “there is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about”. So by not publicising its role in achieving success, any organisation robs its followers, especially Prospectors, of the chance to bask in reflected glory, and it denies them the opportunity to pass on the good news.

For all Pioneer-dominated groups seeking change, this is the real dilemma: it is sometimes possible to be simply too serious-minded.

One small step for fashion, one potentially giant leap for sustainability

Friday, May 25th, 2012 | Uncategorized | No Comments

This blog post originally appeared on Melba Foggo’s Logica blog

In the crucial battle for the hearts and minds of trendsetters, the fashion industry is better placed than any other to encourage consumers to be greener.

In recent times it’s been heartening to see a number of major brands taking great strides to becoming more sustainable. Nike, Levi’s, Timberland, North Face, Gucci, YSL and Puma have all made efforts to reduce the environmental impact of their products.

But what stops them from going further? A common theme among high-street brands we’ve spoken to at Global Cool is fear of putting their heads above the green parapet. There is no shortage of will to make supply chains more sustainable, to create greener production processes and even to educate staff on environmental issues; but when we’ve suggested that they could use their influence with consumers to make an even more significant difference in the fight against climate change, we’ve been met with looks of horror.

That’s why the launch of H&M’s Conscious Collection last month feels like an important step. Of course, there is no shortage of places for the ethically aware consumer can go to get their fashion fix: sites like Fashion Conscience, Annie Greenabelle, People Tree and THTC (which has featured in Logica’s Sustainability Stories series ) have all played an important role in showing bigger brands that sustainable fashion can be both aspirational and profitable.

The Conscious Collection – all the garments are made from organic cotton, hemp and recycled polyester – is a rare attempt by the high street to take ethical fashion to the masses. Crucially, as well as being sustainable, this line is affordable for the average customer and, because it comes with the full weight of the H&M brand behind it (including celebrity endorsers like the Hollywood actress Michelle Williams), it ‘s been well received in mainstream media. Even the Daily Mail, a newspaper not usually known for its support of climate change, gave the launch a positive review.

That’s not to say H&M and other fashion brands do not have their detractors; there were no shortage of people queuing up to point out the fashion industry’s shortcomings around labour rights on the The Guardian’s coverage.

Clearly this kind of scrutiny is important to ensure that the fashion industry lives up to its environmental claims, especially as a recent survey found 52% of consumers are skeptical about brands’ ethical claims.

Less helpful, though, are those detractors who argue that the word sustainability is incompatible with an industry whose lifeblood is the creation of new trends that ensure the old trends have a very short shelf life. Not only is this attitude defeatist, it also fosters the kind of fear of criticism that has held brands back from being bolder in their sustainability initiatives.

Of course, there is still a lot more that fashion brands can do – not least making their entire range sustainable. Marketing Week also pointed out that H&M could do more to promote sustainability by making their customers feel good about buying these products. At Global Cool we think they have a part to play in encouraging wider green behaviours, too, such as efficient home energy use. But this is certainly a step in the right direction and one that we hope many more fashion brands will follow.

Music festivals and sustainability: An unlikely success story

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

This blog post originally appeared on Melba Foggo’s Logica blog

Thousands of people travelling from far and wide (often in gas-guzzling cars) to be entertained by shows requiring vast amounts of energy while generating piles of rubbish in once green fields; on the surface, music festivals hardly appear to be beacons of environmental responsibility – and we haven’t even mentioned the chemical toilets yet.

But, beneath the surface, music festivals are making great efforts to reduce their environmental impact. Leading the way is American festival Rock the Green, which came to our attention through Logica’s Sustainability Stories campaign to highlight innovative sustainable projects. Incredibly, this one-day festival held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin generated just 10 trash cans of rubbish last year, with 92% of waste being either recycled, reused or composted.

Key to the success of the festival was the involvement of local sponsors and partners who recognised the business benefits of putting Milwaukee on the sustainability map. “The community has embraced Rock the Green,” said founder Lindsay Stevens. “Our sponsors and partners have made it clear that showcasing Milwaukee on the national stage as a leader in innovative sustainability practices is a priority.”

Music festivals in the UK have also made great strides in becoming more sustainable, including the big festivals. Glastonbury festival recycled 49% of its waste in 2010 and last year they launched the Green Traveller package, which granted access to perks such as solar showers to those who made the journey to the festival by public transport rather than car.

It’s not just the obvious candidates like Glastonbury (which has long had a close relationship with Greenpeace), either. A Greener Festival Awards was set up in 2007 to help music festivals around the world become more sustainable. Last year 47 festivals were given the award, with 12 achieving ‘Outstanding’ status. One of those was the Isle of Wight Festival, whose green initiatives go above and beyond the usual advice to refill water bottles and clean up mess from the campsite. Recycling is incentivised by offering eco-friendly freebies in exchange for cans, cycling is promoted through organized bike rides and the Let It Bee campaign highlights the dwindling bee population.

The key aspect of these initiatives at the Isle of Wight Festival is that they go above and beyond simply cutting the festival’s carbon footprint. Instead, they use the captive audience that a music festival creates to influence people’s behaviour beyond the festival’s fields. Rock the Green also took this approach, with a number of interactive areas around the festival site that aimed to educate and enable the audience to be greener in their day-to-day lives.

Of course, festivals could go even further. As welcome as a shower at Glastonbury might be, no doubt take up of the Green Traveller scheme would be higher if the incentive was a half-price ticket instead. More could also be done to involve the musicians in carrying these messages. They are, after all, undoubtedly the people best placed to influence the audience at a festival. Global Cool has produced video interviews featuring over 100 bands talking about green lifestyle choices. These videos gave the green lifestyle messages that festivals want to promote – notably public transport use – a much bigger platform and also amplified them beyond the confines of the festival’s fields via the web.

Are musicians really credible as green messengers? Many of them are working just as hard as festivals to be sustainable and, again, it’s not just the obvious candidates like Radiohead (who have stopped playing large music festivals that don’t have adequate public transport infrastructure in place). Julie’s Bicycle, another UK organisation working to make music festivals and the creative industries as a whole more sustainable, have helped a number of high-profile artists practice what they preach when it comes to sustainability. Their Industry Green (IG) certification has appeared on CD releases by Jack Johnson, Kate Nash, Robbie Williams and many more, ensuring that the environmental impact has been kept to a minimum.

As we approach festival season once more we look forward to seeing festivals following in Rock the Green’s footsteps and taking even bolder steps toward promoting and enabling sustainability.

How to make sustainability desirable

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 | Uncategorized | No Comments

This blog post originally appeared on Melba Foggo’s Logica blog

With the Sustainability Stories campaign currently in full swing, now is an apt time to be writing our first guest blog for Logica.

Global Cool has worked closely with Logica over the last couple of years. In late 2011 and early 2012 they helped us redefine our business strategy and develop the B2B content services that are now helping to fund our main consumer-facing work. Melba Foggo, Logica’s International Practice Leader for Sustainability Services, is also Treasurer and a Trustee of Global Cool Foundation, which runs the Global Cool campaign.

So, Global Cool has certainly benefited from the expertise Logica is offering as the prize for the Sustainability Stories competition. We are also an example of the kind of innovation that Sustainability Stories is championing.

Global Cool has pioneered a unique approach to tackling climate change. Launched in 2007 with backing from Tony Blair, Prince Charles and celebrities such as Leonardo Di Caprio, Sienna Miller, Josh Hartnett and many more, our mission is to reach people traditionally turned off by climate change campaigns. Over the last five years we have worked with Vodafone, London Fashion Week, Britain’s Next Top Model Live, London Fashion and a host of music festivals to promote sustainable living to the mainstream.

Over the last 30 years the green movement has done a great job of mobilising people who have an intrinsic desire to ‘do their bit’, but it has largely failed to engage people whose values and priorities lie elsewhere. Global Cool was created to fix that problem. We target society’s trendsetters, who are at the tipping point of normalising behaviours and attitudes. Without buy-in from the mainstream it will be impossible to generate the social, economic and political will needed to combat climate change.

The Global Cool team has its roots in mainstream mass media, so we understand how to communicate with trendsetters. We have also done extensive research with market segmentation experts Cultural Dynamics to understand how trendsetters think. We know that they don’t like being told what to do and are turned off by scare tactics or apocalyptic visions of impending disaster. Perhaps most surprisingly for those who find themselves compelled to fight climate change, we also know trendsetters do not respond to rational, science-based arguments. Sorry, Al Gore, but all the graphs and data in the world are not going to make any difference. Nor are they are relevant; most trendsetters already believe in climate change, they just don’t feel empowered or motivated to do anything about it. Climate change does not have an awareness problem, but its solutions do have a marketing one.

Global Cool is solving that marketing problem by inspiring people into action rather than scaring them. We focus on specific, day-to-day behaviours that people can easily adopt rather than visions of melting ice caps that feel like a million miles from the real world to most people. Behaviours we promote include turning down home heating, flight-free holidays, cycling and public transport (an area that Logica has worked in with its work in Helsinki ). We highlight the benefits of these green behaviours and connect them to things trendsetters do care about, such as fashion, music, travel adventures and lifestyle trends.

Our Turn Up The Style, Turn Down The Heat campaign encourages people to wear on-trend knitwear around the home so they can turn down their heating and use less energy. By centring the campaign on fashion we make green behaviours fun and positive which in turn makes them desirable to people who are unlikely to turn down their heating because they think it will save a polar bear.

More than 211,000 people visited our lifestlye website last year and our research shows that 80% of our audience can be identified as trendsetters – or what Cultural Dynamics define as ‘Now People’ in their values modes theory. We have also shown that we can get people to change their behaviour, with a 50% increase in the number of people willing to Turn Up The Style, Turn Down The Heat before and after the campaign.

As well as making sustainability cool, we also believe in making it easy, and that’s why we were delighted to see Logica supporting sustainable projects that are empowering people to make a real difference. Sustainability Stories is giving a voice to innovative sustainability and showing that a sustainable future can enrich all of our lives through positive change.

How to Turn the Red Carpet Green Like Meryl Streep

Thursday, March 8th, 2012 | Uncategorized | No Comments

It seems that the clothes are almost as important as the films at the Oscars, so it was great to see so many stars wearing eco fashion. After all, as the star of this year’s awards, Meryl Streep, knows all too well – only The Devil Wears Prada.

Colin and Livia Firth – a long-time champion of sustainable fashion with her Green Carpet Challenge - both got on their eco glad rags. Mrs Darcy wore a Valentino dress made from recycled polyester and plastic bottles, while the King of last year’s Oscars donned his Tom Ford tux for the second year running – a form of recycling that is tantamount to fashion heresy in Hollywood.

But it was Meryl who stole the show in her eco-friendly Lanvin gown.

For those wanting to follow in the Iron Lady’s eco-friendly footsteps (we mean Meryl rather than Maggie, obvs) but unsure of where to start, there was plenty of eco fashion inspiration on display at London Fashion Week last week. Here are some of Global Cool‘s autumn/winter favourites from the Estethica exhibition

In the Quechua language, Pachacuti literally means ‘world upside-down’ and that’s exactly what the designers have done for the world of ethical fashion. From CO2-neutral packaging to organically grown fibres, this Fair Trade panama hats company is the epitome of sustainable style. This season we saw gorgeous felt hats added to the collection, and an entire range of irresistible soft alpaca wool knitwear and accessories – perfect for wrapping up warm this winter.

A new face for us this season was Makepiece - a knitwear company focussed on offering beautiful jumpers, dresses and accessories made from soft, ethical yarns and designed to be ahead of the trends, so they stay fashionable for longer. We love that all the wool comes from their very own flock of low-impact Shetland sheep, and one of the jumpers on display was even knitted from their oldest sheep Daisy Mae – she was the first ever bottle fed lamb and is now a venerable grandmother.

A long-standing Global Cool favourite Charini had a fresh new look for their Autumn/Winter collection. There was a stark contrast between the delicate, cream bridal range, and the darker, bondage-inspired range. Creator Charini Suriyage told us: “We wanted to use the designs to portray the female sense of power. One of the ranges mixes bondage with lace to show empowerment but still with a sense of sophistication and femininity.” All the underwear in the collection is made from sustainable material with no hooks, no elastic, no plastic or any unnecessary dying.

Junky Styling
We loved the fresh colours on display at the Junky Styling exhibition at London Fashion Week this season, which were quite a change from their usual designs. The mix of military jackets lined with bright Scottish blankets, created a strong colour-contrast. We particularly liked the red fringed jacket, made from recycled scarves. The ladies behind the scenes told us: “We’ve created dresses from suits, scarves and recycled silk tie materials and pieced them together in original patchwork designs.”

This post was originally published at The Huffington Post

A Cool Green Partnership

Monday, February 27th, 2012 | Uncategorized | No Comments

global cool and daisy greenDaisy Green Magazine and Global Cool team up to take green living to the online masses

DaisyGreenMagazine.co.uk, the leading women’s ethically focussed e-zine, and GlobalCool.org, an online green lifestyle magazine, are thrilled to announce they will be partnering and collaborating on editorial and commercial projects.

As well as content collaboration, Daisy Green and Global Cool will work together on sponsorship, advertising and competition packages, providing a platform that will enable businesses to reach an audience of trendsetting fashionistas who are highly engaged with the content and ethos of these two growing online lifestyle destinations.

For over three years the Daisy Green Magazine team have been described as a cross between Sex and The City and The Good Life! Their aim is a simple one: to act as role models for women who wish to live a more ethical and sustainable life, but without preaching.

Global Cool’s ethos is exactly the same. They make sustainable living fun, sexy and aspirational by entertaining their audience with a lively mix of fashion news, lifestyle tips and celebrity gossip – all a far cry from the worthy guilt-tripping of most green campaigns.

With a shared belief that even the smallest changes add up to help protect the planet, these two green trendsetters are now aiming to take their Cool Green message farther and wider than ever before.

Nicola Alexander, founder of Daisy Green, said: “It makes so much sense to collaborate with another brilliant, likeminded business. Our message is really simple: ‘It’s Cool to be Green’ and so easy to make a difference. And for all those brands wishing to spread their green love, there is no better place to start than via Daisy Green and Global Cool.”

Chris Deary, Editorial Director of Global Cool, added: “We’ve long been admirers of Daisy Green. With their focus on fashion and beauty conscious females and our audience of celebrity culture vultures there’s a tremendous amount of crossover between the two sites. By collaborating we believe we can engage even more people with green living, whilst also creating a powerful platform for brands to communicate via.”

About Daisy Green
Daisy Green Magazine was founded over 3 years ago by Nicola Alexander as a means to bring ethical living to a wider mainstream audience showcasing brands that are produced with thought and integrity for both those who make them and the local environments in which they are made.

About Global Cool
Global Cool is run by the Global Cool Foundation, a not-for-profit that specialises in communicating sustainability to the mainstream. Since 2007 they have worked with celebrities, the entertainment industry and a number of major brands to promote green living to trendsetters, who hold the key to mass behaviour change and yet have been largely unreached by most green campaigns. Two years ago the Global Cool website was transformed into an online lifestyle magazine designed to make green living fun, easy and desirable.

Contact Details
For more information please contact Nicola Alexander, founder of Daisy Green – Nicola@daisygreenmagazine.co.uk; or Chris Deary, Editorial Director of Global Cool – chris.deary@globalcool.org, +44 (0) 8444 410 003

Eco Terrorism vs Vinnie Jones and Porn: Which Would You Rather Watch?

Thursday, January 26th, 2012 | Uncategorized | No Comments

Kudos to the British Heart Foundation for their Hard and Fast video campaign starring Vinnie Jones.

Aimed at educating the general public on the best way to perform CPR, the video sends up Jones’ typecast gangster persona by making a Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels spoof in which the former footballer – flanked by two blokes who look like they’re appearing in the video in order to fund their way through Bouncer School – resuscitates a ‘geezer’ using only his hands because “you only kiss your Missus on the lips”…

The campaign went viral, racking up more than a million views on YouTube and earning a string of press coverage. By embracing celebrity culture, keeping the message simple and adding a twist of humour into the mix (the soundtrack for the video is the Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive), the British Heart Foundation unlocked a mass audience for a message that without the help of Jones and his burly companions could have been pretty worthy and dull.

Compare and contrast with some of the eco movement’s attempts to engage a mass audience. Treehugger website recently hailed the fact that five ‘eco movies’ have been shortlisted in the Best Documentary category for this year’s Oscars as a sign of the subject’s rising popularity. Those films are: If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (a tale about eco terrorists), Battle for Brooklyn, Jane’s Journey, Semper Fi: Always Faithful, and Project Nim. How many have you seen? How many of them have you even heard of? Thought not…

At the time of writing the You ube trailers for those movies have a total of 82,046 views between them. That’s more than 10 times less than what Vinnie managed on his own. Where the British Heart Foundation was brave enough to put its tongue firmly in its cheek to communicate an important message, too many in the green movement lack the boldness to make content that might appeal to people who have different interests to them (i.e. things other than climate change).

PETA, the US-based campaign for the ethical treatment of animals, has a history of taking a more populist approach to getting their message across. Much like Global Cool, the climate change campaign I work for, PETA has used celebrity association to engage the mainstream with their work. Their latest campaign will see them take their message into the world of pornography with the launch of a new .xxx domain version of their website. Users of the site will be forced to watch an animal being skinned before they get to see a celebrity in the buff.

Whether anyone will still be in the, er, ‘mood’ for doing whatever it is that they do while looking at naked ladies on the internet (I couldn’t possibly comment) once they’ve seen an animal being liberated of its fur is up for debate. It’s unlikely to win PETA any Oscars, that’s for sure. But common consensus (and a load of search data from Google, no doubt) certainly suggests that the potential audience for PETA’s message is significantly higher in the porn world than it is in the eco documentary world.

Eco terrorists and those who make documentaries about them should take note.

Solving climate change the Steve Jobs way

Thursday, January 5th, 2012 | Uncategorized | No Comments

steve jobsThis post was originally published in the Huffington Post

Apple is hardly a beacon of environmental good practice, but that doesn’t mean Steve Jobs didn’t play his part in helping to find a solution to climate change.

Climate change does not have an awareness problem. It does, however, have a marketing problem. Plenty has been done to raise awareness, but very little has been done to effectively market green solutions to the general public.

Of course, the climate change problem is very simple to sum up: the human race is producing more and more carbon dioxide, therefore global temperatures are rising, therefore the earth will eventually no longer be a place that human beings are able to exist in. In a nutshell: “Hello dinosaurs and dodos, nice to meet you, we’re the human race!”

It’s the simplicity of this message that seems to make it the default when people try and talk to the public about sustainability.

The actions that individuals can take to help combat climate change are so much more difficult to summarise. This is because the behaviours that are causing us to produce too much carbon dioxide are wide ranging. Just think about all the ways you could waste energy in your home: washing clothes at unnecessarily high temperatures, sitting around in shorts and t-shirt with the heating pumping out to the max, re-boiling the kettle because you forgot to make your brew the first time it boiled. The list goes on, and that’s before you’ve even put a foot outside your front door.

There is no one-size-fits-all way to discourage humans from behaving in these ways. In some cases, the free market, driven by the profit motive, can provide a way for the public to consume products in a less wasteful way. The iPod is a great example of this. By creating this product, Steve Jobs and Apple vastly reduced the demand for CDs, the plastic cases that they come in and the transportation that is required to take them to the shops.

Of course, product innovations such as the iPod won’t always be the answer. For other behaviours, it’s necessary to motivate the public to consume less, not just differently.

For some people, appeals to thrift might work. In these times of economic turmoil and rising energy prices, the financial motive for energy efficient homes has never been stronger. But when it comes to behaviour change, the solution is rarely as one-dimensional as that. Not everyone is motivated in the same way, and therefore not everyone cares about financial prudence.

Similarly, not everyone is equally empowered to change their behaviour. So reinsulating the loft to save money might float a homeowner’s boat, but someone living in rented accommodation is less likely to know how their heating system works, or feel able to do much about it. They might, however, be persuaded to turn down their heating to a lower temperature if they can be convinced that having it too hot is drying out their skin and making them age prematurely (which it is).

The possible solutions to high-carbon behaviours are almost endless, but what almost all of them have in common is that they do not require the consumer to understand the problem they are helping to solve – just as people who bought the iPod probably did not know (or care) that they were reducing the demand for CDs.

The person who puts on a jumper so they can turn down their heating and protect their skin does not need to know how much CO2 they have saved – nor does the person who ditches the car for the bike because they want to be fitter, or the person who takes canvas bags to the supermarket because they have cooler designs and are more comfortable on the fingers than plastic ones.

Whether knowingly or not, Steve Jobs made us all accidental environmentalists, but that was never part of the marketing strategy. We all bought iPods because they were more convenient, beautifully designed and – crucially – because Apple managed to convince us that we would be happier with one than without.

We need to find more green solutions like this for a whole range of behaviours. This presents a much greater creative challenge than simply talking about melting ice caps, carbon calculators or slapping an “eco” label on something. It’s time for us all to take inspiration from Steve Jobs and step up to this creative challenge.

Image via philozopher

What Climate Change Campaigns Could (and Should) Learn From Jay-Z

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011 | Uncategorized | No Comments

jay-zNew York – so good they named it twice. Everyone wants to be a part of it, right? But where does that reputation come from? What is it about the Big Apple that makes it one of the coolest cities on the planet?

In the search for answers I consulted the US Census Bureau, where I discovered that the population of New York is 8,214,426 (as of 2006), the median household income is $38,293 and 31.3% of businesses in the city are owned by women. I also looked at The Economist, where I found articles about increasing hunger and poverty in the city, as well as an under-performing and under-funded public school system.

Pretty uninspiring stuff on the whole. Of course, the real answer to my question lies in the very first sentence of this article. New York’s popular perception has nothing to do with facts and figures and has everything to do with its portrayal in popular culture. From Frank Sinatra to Jay-Z, the Big Apple has long been sold as a dream factory.

The climate change movement could learn a lot from this. The public have long been bombarded with facts and figures about global warming – most notably in Al Gore’s climate change movie An Inconvenient Truth – in attempt to spur them into action. But as New York demonstrates, facts and figures rarely capture the public’s imagination.

Let’s look at the lyrics on Jay-Z’s massive hit record Empire State of Mind, on which New York is described as:

“A concrete jungle where dreams are made,

There’s nothing you can’t do now you’re in New York,

These streets will make you feel brand new,

Big lights will inspire you.”

Powerful stuff. And yet it doesn’t contain a single verifiable fact or figure. Contrast this with Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, during which the former US Vice President uses a series of graphs and pie charts about melting ice caps and rising temperatures to paint an apocalyptic vision of the earth’s future.

If you’re the type of person who reads The Economist, Gore’s Powerpoint presentation was probably right up your street. You may even have made a conscious decision to do something about climate change as a result of seeing the film. The problem is that most people don’t read The Economist. Most people watch the X Factor, and read Heat magazine, and worry about whether they’ll be able to fit into their bikini on their next holiday.

Market segmentation experts Cultural Dynamics call these people ‘Outer Directed’. They’re motivated by money, success, looking good and getting approval from others. They also find science scary and don’t like being told what to do. For this reason, pretty much every attempt the climate change movement has made to engage them has failed. Since Gore’s film came out in 2006, belief in climate change has actually declined according to this survey.

These ‘Outer Directed’ people need to be inspired to do things, and that includes taking on action on climate change. Jay-Z’s song is a great example of how inspirational language and tone of voice can make something incredibly appealing and attractive. Gore’s approach is the exact opposite and only serves to make the whole issue frightening, unattractive and boring.

There is a time and a place for scientific debate about climate change, and for serious initiatives led by both government and big business to help tackle it, just as there is an important role for the type of journalism produced by The Economist, and the kind of data produced by the US Census Bureau. But if the climate change movement is ever to break through to the mainstream and persuade the masses to change their ways, it needs fewer statistics and a little bit more stardust, New York style.

Measuring climate change campaigns: What’s the relation between online and offline behaviour?

Monday, September 12th, 2011 | Uncategorized | No Comments

At Global Cool we have rigorously measured our climate change campaigns and published the results in detail here.

We also measure our online campaigning activity in great detail, which provides a gold mine of data about how many people we can reach, where and how we can reach them and  - perhaps most interestingly for us as an organisation trying to persuade people to change their behaviour – how deeply they do or don’t engage with our ideas.

laptopBut, whilst all this online data is great in terms of helping us understand how best to communicate with our target audience, it doesn’t really tell us very much about how our audience behaves in ‘the real world’ once they have interacted with us online. (N.B. Our digital activity has focused on engaging and educating the public with specific actions, rather than building tools that might, for example, measure an individual’s carbon footprint, which we think would exclude the very audience we’re trying to reach.)

To some extent, the surveys and focus groups we do can tell us whether our campaigning is actually changing people’s behaviour, and we have seen some positive results, for example the number of people who said they would wear woolly jumpers at home rose from 12% to 18% following our Turn Up The Style, Turn Down The Heat campaign. Nevertheless, it is still useful to see other evidence that online engagement is an effective way of persuading people to change their behaviour.

Therefore we were pleased to liaise with Michele Mazza from Imperial College recently, who has done some excellent work into the relation between online and offline behaviour. Essentially what we wanted to know from Michele was: If someone likes us on Facebook, or retweets us on Twitter, or signs up for our newsletter, does this mean they will then go on to adopt the behaviours that we are promoting? Michele reported back as follows:

Assessing whether individuals online engagement with organisations influences offline behaviour has proven a very interesting but particularly challenging aspect to evaluate.

While in the case of private sector this issue is less problematic, since the sale of a product can be seen as a ‘primer’ to measure the effectiveness of an online campaign, for public and NGO’s organisation the task is trickier.

However recent studies by Cugelman (Cugelman et al. (2009), (2010)) involving meta-analytical techniques used to assess the impact of online interventions in influencing individual’s offline behaviours, depict a positive picture.

Cugelman first distinguishes between Macro-behaviours, described as primary behaviours targeted by an online intervention; and micro-behaviours describes as routine behaviours that people perform online, intended to lead to the macro-behaviour. For example, a micro-behaviour would describe when a person registered for a weight-loss intervention, while the macro-behaviour would be dieting.

He demonstrates how Microsuasion, i.e. small persuasive tactics used to encourage the performance of minor online tasks, such as signing up for a newsletter or clicking on a hyperlink (Fogg, 2003), are very effective in driving micro-behaviour change. More importantly he also founds correlation between micro and macro-behaviour change, since ” online behaviour outcomes can be seen as a process that includes a small number of online activities leading to significant impacts later on” Cugelman (2010).

This is particularly true when the number of online features in an intervention, i.e. the number of micro-behaviour to perform, is high. (Vandelanotte, et al., 2007). Add to this in another study (Cugelman et al., 2009) Cugelman suggests how the web site credibility, in terms of expertise, trustworthiness and visual appeal is also a key component in effectiveness of online behavioural change interventions.

Finally he also shows how online interventions can match and sometimes outperform interventions distributed over traditional media.

Of course these studies do not fully solve the problem of being able to isolate the effects of Global Cool online activity from the myriad of other influences on people’s ‘green’ behaviour. But they demonstrate how online micro-suasion can lead to micro-behaviour change and how many micro-behaviour changes can lead to macro-behaviour ones.

So they can be seen as a further justification of your approach, and are good selling points!

Many thanks to Michele for this useful research, which would seem to reinforce our approach to online climate change campaigning. We’d be interested to hear from other organisations on their views about the relationship between online and offline behaviour in the comments…

We run Global Cool, the only online magazine in the UK truly inspiring the mainstream to live greener

We create content about music, fashion, celebrity and lifestyle trends. We use this content to inspire people normally turned off by climate change to lead greener lives. We reached more than 200,000 people in 2011 and we don't preach to the converted. In fact, 93% of our audience say we are the only green organisation they engage with.

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