In its current run, the green movement has captured the public’s interest in a big way for several years now. After being inundated with green marketing and media exhortations to lower their environmental impacts, are people tiring of green? Although many building industry professionals remain committed to the cause, adoption of environmentally conscious construction largely depends on home and building owners’ willingness to spend for it.
Many consumers say they want to be green, but the day-to-day pressures of making every dollar count often trump good intentions. As the economy limps on in a seemingly never-ending slump, there’s a risk that people may soon burn out on green.
So, what can savvy architects, contractors, product manufacturers and others do to keep interest up? A few thoughts:
- Don’t exaggerate – People quickly see through inflated claims. They know that choosing a recycled paper cup is better than other alternatives, but that it’s not going to “save the planet.” Likewise, don’t promise more energy savings, improved air quality, etc. than you can realistically deliver.
- Remember people’s self-interest – Environmental impacts are often somewhat esoteric and removed from a person’s daily experience. People may want to save the polar bears, but interest wanes quickly when such causes are not linked to one’s own needs. Show how green building lowers energy costs, improves health, etc. Better yet, implement design and building practices that are inherently more efficient, without requiring people to make a choice.
- Show that green is not a single destination, but a process – It’s human nature to want (and expect) to take an action, and have a problem permanently solved. Much green marketing has unfortunately played into this notion by promoting that “buying X product means being green.” In reality, green will always be about finding ways to become better and better at reducing impacts.
Hard-living rocker Neil Young sang, “It’s better to burn out than fade away.” Perhaps, but after the big push in recent years to raise green awareness, it would be a shame for the movement to either burn out or fade away.
What do you think? What are the best ways to keep green building moving forward?