Make it easy to go green
A couple of years ago I was staying in a very nice boutique hotel in the East Midlands which obviously took its environmental performance very seriously. They had PIR sensors in the en-suite which meant you couldn’t leave the light on. Only problem was, if you sat too long on the toilet (and too long wasn’t very long I hasten to add…) the lights would go out and you had to do an undignified seated arm-waving dance to trigger the sensor so you could see the loo roll. Nice idea, but a pain in the proverbial in practice.
A few years ago, with my councillor hat on, I was instrumental in getting a new kerbside recycling system implemented across the city of Newcastle. The old system an open plastic crate into which residents had to sort their rubbish into separate plastic bags. It had to be stored inside and on windy days, paper and plastic bottles would get blown around the streets. The new system is a wheelie bin with a caddy for glass and batteries – paper, card, plastic and metals all go together in the bottom (as modelled by yours truly). The green lobby screamed blue murder at us for the environmental sacrilege of mixing materials and predicted catastrophic failure. What happened? Recycling rates jumped by 50% because ordinary people found it easier to recycle.
As regular readers will know, I am also excited by the shift from physical media like books, CDs and DVDs to digital products like ebooks, MP3s and movies on demand. The closure of Woolworths, Zavvi and Borders and the problems that HMV/Waterstones are facing are (an unfortunate) testimony to the power of this trend. It is not environmentalism that is driving this, but fashion and technology. In particular the iPod started a revolution in making accessing digital media simple – no hair shirt product that (although one delegate at the Grayling event week before last thought that digital media was idea for the age of austerity where smaller housing and frequent job moves might be normal.)
What all of these examples illustrate is you have to make it easy to follow green behaviour – and sell that ease of use. I was on site with one of my clients last week and they had a lovely poster shaped like a road sign with the ‘straight ahead’ route labelled “train journey 3 hours, flight 2 hours, drive 90 minutes” and the ‘right turn’ labelled “teleconference 5 minutes”. Nice.