People are paring down and simplifying their lives. Consumers are increasingly selective about the products they purchase. "Excess" is causing revulsion, prompting consumers to purchase fewer products and more in bulk; then to repurpose as much as they can. Even trendsetters are reorienting their lifestyles to eliminate unnecessary waste. Good news for the environment and overflowing landfills.
These ideas have been embraced by the environmentally conscious for decades. Recently, though, this trend has caught fire with more mainstream consumers than ever before. Even before this economic downturn.
For one thing, consumers are buying far less bottled water. They're buying in bulk or filtering their tap water to refill their own containers. They're using canvas shopping bags to avoid plastic and even paper bags. More people are reading their news online, eschewing newspapers and magazines. A popular organization called Greendimes enables consumers to sign up on its site to reduce the junk mail they receive, saving tons of paper.
Eco-conscious consumers are using washable dinnerware again and cloth napkins to cut down on paper waste. And the cleansers they're using are gentle, yet effective natural cleaners to avoid toxicity in their homes, allergic reactions and asthma in their families, and pollutants in the waste stream.
All of these measures save precious natural resources. They also cut down dramatically on materials that have to be recycled or dumped in landfills. Given these trends, companies should analyze how they're doing business, and reexamine their product offerings to see what they can do to meet consumers' emerging value expectations.
As consumers purchase fewer products, businesses need to start rethinking their strategies. It's survival of the fittest time. At a time when brand loyalties are plummeting, eco-conscious brands are giving consumers reasons to believe.
Implementing measures from an environmental stand-point makes more sense than ever. Better yet: costs can be cut in many cases, making product offerings more price competitive, bolstering bottom lines and - allowing companies to tell consumers a great story.
Making products from renewable or recycled materials as much as possible is a great option. Using recycled paperboard, plastics or biodegradable materials for packaging and shipping cartons makes sense, too, as does the use of biodegradable inks. Doing away with extraneous packaging saves money and cuts down on waste.
By concentrating products where applicable, and making them more efficacious, smaller packaging is required, cutting down on pack sizes and/or weight, making them more energy efficient to ship. Offering refills to consumers so that they can reuse containers over and over again is an old idea whose time has come again. Suggesting ideas to consumers on how to repurpose products and packaging is another idea. Companies like TerraCycle do that themselves.
Now when the economy is making it hard to do anything as usual, brands and products marketed in an authentic eco-conscious manner enable marketers to respond to emerging culturally driven values meaningfully. Companies can reposition their brands to be in sync with the communities they're doing business in and offer greater perceived value to consumers than their competitors do.
Social responsibility, transparency and environmental values are resonating with consumers. Companies that work toward honestly stated, specific goals without "green-washing" will stand to profit, in every sense of the word.
Consumers are increasingly attuned to brands that are doing something positive for the planet ... because that's where their values are increasingly headed.