When Going Green Is Uncomfortable ...

I’ll be the first to admit it – sometimes the more environmentally responsible lifestyle decision is also the choice that is inconvenient, uncomfortable and just plain hard. The small, everyday adjustments that we make to live more sustainable lives – walking instead of driving, shopping with reusable bags versus plastic bags, washable napkins or tissues instead of disposable ones – collectively make a significant difference in improving the state of the planet, but also require more time, more planning, and more effort from us.

How does this look on the larger, pricier, scale? As the Wall Street Journalreported recently, Americans find fuel efficient cars, less dependable and more annoying. As reported, ratings agency J.D. Power’s latest 2014 Vehicle Dependability Study found that owners of fairly new cars (three years old) are reporting more problems than owners of cars that are older – and less fuel efficient. Consumers who bought a four-cylinder car because it promised better fuel efficiency found themselves annoyed a few years later by the noise caused by the engine and jerky, rough transmissions that came at the expense of foregoing a six-cylinder car. As the WSJ’s Joseph B. White writes, “Americans hate spending money on gasoline, but a study out today suggests that they also get annoyed by the technology required to deliver a more efficient car.” 

It’s a quandary as companies struggle to not only do the right thing, but also do right by their consumers. In the quest to change consumer behavior, what is a company to do?  

1. Build sustainability into the foundation: Rather than offering sustainability products that are “niche,” embed sustainability into the fabric of your company. Companies like Patagonia, Seventh Generation, and Honest Tea, among others have made sustainability central to their business and, as such, have built armies of loyal fans who enjoy being able to rely on these brands for sustainable, environmentally friendly products. 

2. Rely on facts: For the unconverted, appealing to facts – rather than emotion – will be the strongest argument. Show the bottom-line benefit of using energy-efficient light bulbs, carpooling, growing a vegetable garden, or buying a well-made jacket once every ten years versus once a season. It’s no longer an argument about the environment – it’s about the economy. 

3. Innovate and appeal to consumer lifestyles: By developing products that are efficient, environmentally friendly and cost-efficient we are hitting the sweet spot of really changing consumer behavior. One of my favorite examples of this is Fresh Paper – an eco-friendly solution that extends the life of your produce, reducing waste – and saving money.  

Let me know in the comments and at @Brigid_Milligan – what else can companies do to move consumers past the “annoying” factor of green decisions?

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