Purchase ethical products to help reform the market.



Amory Lovins

Lovins argues that energy efficiency measures should be implemented upstream, in the course of production rather than consumption.  He argues that people demand the same products and services that they are accustomed to, and that change will only occur when it can be made accessible to the masses. 

The corporation can take on risks that the consumer can't: “If you invest to save energy in your business or home, you probably want your money back within a couple of years, whereas utilities are content to recover their power-plant investments in 20–30 years—about ten times as long. Thus householders (and many corporate managers) typically require tenfold higher returns for saving energy than for producing it,104 equivalent to a tenfold price distortion. This practice makes us buy far too much energy and too little efficiency.” Climate: Making Sense and Money
However, this supply-side change does involve the consumer, as it must be driven by public opinion: “Many companies are discovering that public perceptions of environmental responsibility, or its lack thereof, affect sales. MacMillan Bloedel, targeted by environmental activists as an emblematic clear-cutter and chlorine user, lost 5% of its sales almost overnight when dropped as a U.K. supplier by Scott Paper and Kimberly-Clark. Numerous case studies show that companies leading the way in implementing changes that help protect the environment tend to gain disproportionate advantage, while companies perceived as irresponsible lose their franchise, their legitimacy, and their shirts. Even businesses that claim to be committed to the concept of sustainable development but whose strategy is seen as mistaken, like Monsanto, are encountering stiffening public resistance to their products.” A Road Map for Natural Capitalism

Heather Rogers

"While green capitalism's goal of protecting nature is commendable... there's a catch: How will this industrial transformation take place with no reduction in consumption, and on a purely voluntary basis?" Architecture Magazine 2006

Cradle to Cradle

“People could indulge their hunger for new products as often as they wish, without guilt, and industry could encourage them to do so with impunity, knowing that both sides are supporting the technical metabolism in the process.” Cradle to Cradle 114

While the Cradle to Cradle focuses on the design and production of goods, McDonough and Braungart  suggest that the consumer can have a role in the process.  Here, the role of the consumer is to enjoy "a world of abundance, not one of limits, pollution, and waste." Cradle to Cradle, 90

Their solution is to consume “the right products and services and systems – instead of making the wrong things less bad.” By following the Cradle to Cradle model, one consumes the products without guilt, as they have been designed such that they have little negative impact. The end result is a product that delivers the same performance or service that the consumer expects, without adversely affecting the environment. 

McDonough and Braungart take an opposite stance to the “Buy less, spend less, drive less” philosophy in which “if you are going to help save the planet, you will have to make some sacrifices, share some resources, perhaps even go without.”   They view this type of thinking as “a failure of the imagination” and a “depressing vision of our species’ ” role in the world. Cradle to Cradle, 6-7.

To make products that follow the Cradle to Cradle system readily identifiable to the public, McDonough has created “Cradle to Cradle Certified Products,” with the intention that “consumers can rely on the certification mark to identify and specify sustainable products for their homes, businesses, and buildings." www.mbdc.com


The USGBC believes that the consumer is key to change. They acknowledge changes in the market and the increase in demand for green buildings: “One important aspect of certifying projects under a green building standard is being able to use this as a marketing tool.” http://www.usgbc.org/ShowFile.aspx?DocumentID=6247

LEED certification sells buildings to high-end clients and governments, gets architects and builders sparkling free publicity, and creates a hook for selling new products, materials, and systems to builders. It's a whole new commercial ecosystem. Anya Kamenetz


Vishaan Chakrabarti

To Chakrabarti, green consumer behavior isn't enough: “I feel that the market has already responded to sustainability: hybrid vehicles, fluorescent light bulbs, and all these things that Americans feel that if they adopt as individuals – that if they recycle – that if they do all of these things on an individual basis, that they're going to affect the problem.  And I think, by and large, it’s duping people. That's not because I'm against all of those sustainable technologies, but if you look at the numbers, it just simply doesn't seem to make much of a dent. It doesn't seem very scalable.... 

"I was talking to Nancy Levinson, … and she was saying that they’ve got research at ASU that's starting to show that you can put solar arrays on every house in Phoenix, and it just doesn't matter. It doesn't matter because the land form of Phoenix so completely devours energy that those individual efforts on the part of well-meaning people are really meaningless. ” Underdome Interview
“We are being told, in the end, that sprawl is just fine, that if we just weatherize our McMansions, drive hybrid Yukons, and change to fluorescent light bulbs, our gluttonous use of land is legitimate. It is from Silicon Valley, where sprawl is high art, that progressives fuel the mentality that technology will save us from ourselves. (As an aside, one only need to look at the viral spread of this approach to the physical landscape of the Indian IT sector, where smart minds, office parks, and malls prevail.)”  A Country of Cities

Heather Rogers

"You can't solve the problems of mass production and mass consumption with more mass production and mass consumption."

" A lot of people say, "All right, well, what do you do? Give me the answer. Give me the program." Real social change doesn't work like that. That's how consumption works: You go to the store, and you buy this, and you take it home, and you use it. …The thing with the way that we consume and the way that we identify with commodities right now is very much-- and this is what I'm arguing in Gone Tomorrow--is that it's learned behavior. And there's something hopeful about that, because it means it can be unlearned.

"…honestly I didn't look at greenwashing, per se. I looked at industry, and it ended up being about greenwashing, about industries that are presenting themselves as viable solutions. 'We're doing this thing that's green, but it's not really green, but we have this ad campaign.'

"Even the latest issue of The Nation magazine has “Ten Things to Do to Cut Your Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” I don't know if you guys have seen that, but it's the same list of things that has been printed in every rag in every town for the last 10 years. It's all individualistic: turn your lights off, recycle and all that stuff. If we allow that to continue to be the frame, then it just reinforces the consumer, the transactional quality of how we perceive of our impact on the environment.

"People bringing their tote bags to the store really doesn't make that big of a difference environmentally, but the way that it functions to create new norms when you see that is useful. Recycling works in a similar way: it brings out a consciousness of what you throw away, while recycling often isn't that useful in terms of environmental well-being."

(Underdome Interview)

Tom Friedman

"'Green' was actually the single most trademarked term in 2007, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark office. In the green revolution we’re having, everyone’s a winner, nobody has to give up anything, and the adjective that most often modifies 'green revolution' is 'easy.' That’s not a revolution. That’s a party. … But in America, at least, it is mostly a costume party. It’s all about looking green—and everyone’s a winner." Hot, Flat, and Crowded, 251


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