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Interesting post Russell, I just think that a truly sustainable world requires an ever bigger rethink than this. I believe that continuous consumption and continuous economic growth are unsustainable no matter how you repackage them. Green(er) consumerism is just a diversion. We really need to look at how people can be more fulfilled etc without consuming as the defining activity regardless of whether it is new stuff or re-imagining old stuff. It is still about stuff. Masses of literature on the hard to define subject of happiness etc. Obviously this does not even begin to address the wider social justice issues of unequal global consumption. But maybe a radical rethink of happiness in the gluttonous west might have a knock on impact?

This feels interesting and important.

Here are my vague and blurry first thoughts.

What drives our relentless pursuit of the new?

It feels like it's partly down to the incredible pace of technological innovation. If you can upgrade the capabilities of a product every year or so (check out the iPod for a prime example), then people are going to want it.

It makes me think about razors and toothbrushes too. Really, can't we just face the fact that they do their job rather well. And we don't need a closer shave. It's close enough thanks. And our teeth are clean. We don't need the brush to get any better.

But how do you tell Colgate and Gillette that they've done well, and should just relax now? Are Crest and Wilkinson Sword about to take a breather?

We do seem to desire something new more than we desire something with history.

A new iPod Touch is yummier than a first generation iPod. It's sexier. It does more stuff. But it's more landfill.

Then again, my old jeans, the ones that can almost stand up on their own, the ones that feel like me... those jeans I love. Same with old shoes. They feel like part of me.

But shoes and jeans don't get cleverer or better. Not really, no matter what Levis and Nike might want to tell us.

I get the feeling that there might be room for a new movement in product design; but it would require a total rethinking of how companies make money. They'd need to work on making money from looking after the products they create. To make more money from that than they do from making new product. Could that work?

Anyway, just random thoughts.

I just want to say, thanks - great post. Muchos to think about...

Surprisingly frank and honest.

I always wondered what the planner class were doing dicking around with green consumerism.

What to do? - indeed!

First tackle the fundamentals. Understand the structure of life as it is lived today. Wrestle back control of what exactly constitutes value and how one value is easily converted into another.


Hey Russell, great post. Provoking. I have been thinking about this for an awful long time-but not from the perspective of products or business.

There is a great book called "the hydrogen economy", it has a brilliant section on the way the energy and comms infrastructure are linked together. A development in one leads an emergent development in the other - The last development was Electricity/telecommunications. It seems we use the internet for comms, but not equally for energy. I think the system will persist until energy prod + dist match -

Maybe this is wide of the mark. It fits together for me.


Hi Russell,
Regarding creatives in advertising being helpful rather than award-hunting, it would seem sensible that the most coveted awards should be given for positive, unglamorous solutions and not for clever films at all.
As you've implied throughout this great piece, people are not atruistic. But there is energy and power in selfishness that needs to be harnessed. http://nowincolour.blogspot.com/2007/07/doctor-evil.html


I feel a little inadequate commenting on such a massive subject. However, I am a citizen of this planet (and a planner in the US) and it impacts me.

Many of the comments have stolen some of my thunder, but the idea posited from Andy about awarding cleverness instead of glamour in the industry makes a lot of sense.

My question is one of human nature -- aren't we conditioned to survive and promulgate the species? And, survival depends on being able to slay the biggest sabre-tooth tiger and attract the strongest mate, does it not? Is our quest for more, newer and shinier tied to this primal disposition to perform better than our competitors?

Is the hypothesis that economics can hone this competition to reward longevity? Durability?

Excellent post and I look forward to the next installment.

not for profit banking could be the answer.

"...support something existing and interesting like walkit? Take a little percentage of your 'green budget' and sponsor walkit or something similar..."

Doesn't sound like a bad idea ;-)

Drop us a line or give us a call!

Thanks Russell

Blimey. That's good.

Hi Russell, have you read the book "How to be Idle" by Tom Hodgkinson. It has some similar ideas on how to re-shape capitalism, and also is a great read for people who don't want proper jobs.

Lovely post. At the sound of sounding like a Jehovah's witness... no one's mentioned spirituality and the return to faith which seems to be something people are doing as a reaction (as opposed to an evolution) to what is going on in the world. My hunch is the answer lies somewhere in the intersection of that commonly used venn diagram of religion/science/consumerism

Interesting. I think this addresses one of the problems that I have with people like John Grant's analysis of the topic. His story just seems a little myopic and without much in the way of political contextualisation. you've addressed this in part by being more honest about what marketing is for.

Probably the most honest response to the problem I've seen so far. Green consumerism has always felt like an oxymoron to me.

Great post. I agree that economic policy and government have a big role to play in the solution, I also suspect that the comms biz people could play a role by turning the incentive structure on its head. What about inventing products or markets where you get paid for consuming less - less energy, less water etc.

My wife and I were only yesterday talking about the contradictions in Howies marketing - on the one hand they sell their jeans on the fact that they will last you for a long time, but then they send out their catalogue for the next season you and make you want another pair!

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