Why 'Going Lean' Is The New Green

With over 25 years of experience as a sustainability consultant and the author of books on green marketing and eco-innovation, Jacquie Ottman has an eye for understanding trends. As she sees it, the next movement in green marketing is about focusing on waste reduction. 

“There will be 9.5 billion people on the planet soon and 3 billion more consumers in the middle class. And they are all buying cars, using products with packaging. And frankly, there are not enough resources on the planet to sustain that,” she told me in a phone interview.

“It isn’t enough to buy products – we have to promote responsible consumption,” she said. “It isn’t enough just to buy recycled toothpaste – you have to turn off the water when you brush. It’s great that you have a compostable chip bag, but we need consumers to put that into a composting system and not just the trash.”

“I hated to see things go to waste,” she said. “I had been thinking about waste for a while because in my experience, I knew that consumers are usually attracted to ‘green’ for one of four reasons: you can be interested in the great outdoors, you’re interested in health, you care about animals, or you can be concerned about resources and want to minimize waste.” 

As marketers, we are often (overly) focused on creation and convincing consumers to buy our products, so it sounds counterintuitive to build one’s career around “reduction” – but that’s exactly what Jacquie did. 

Last year, she launched as a way to use her marketing expertise to help invest in a waste-free world. WeHateToWaste is a global community of “ardent waste-haters” who are contributing to a dialogue – 24/7 – regarding how to build a lifestyle that is still comforting and fulfilling, but with much less waste. 

Jacquie believes that this community of what she describes as “early adopters” to the waste hate movement will be an essential resource to marketers, because, “who better to ask than those who are already living this lifestyle?”

“We’re asking key questions to understand the habits and unmet needs of these waste-haters that we can then mainstream,” she says. For example, they are trying to understand how to get consumers to use less water in the shower. “On one end of the spectrum, you have some waste-haters who are using a bucket to shower with in order to control their water usage. The question we have to ask then is how do we help everyone segregate their water in the shower and use it in a way that is more convenient – and comfortable – than using a bucket.”

Jacquie offered some advice for green marketers:

  • Get Rid of Your “Save the Planet” Messaging: ultimately, it isn’t about saving the planet, it’s about saving humankind. As such, we need to motivate consumers to buy green products.
  • Focus on the Primary Benefits: If you are selling an energy-efficient lightbulb, don’t talk about the pollution impact, talk about how much money they will save. The environmental benefit is an added value. 
  • Don’t Go Green, Go Lean: Focus on efficiency in your products. Identify ways in which your products can be more efficient with a smaller footprint. Identify ways in which the consumer’s behavior can change to minimize their footprint. 
  • Embrace Creativity: Now is the time to think of creative solutions and progressive ideas to significantly reduce our footprint both at home and at work. is free for anyone to participate in the conversation. Let me know here or at @Brigid_Milligan – are you a waste-hater? What are your ideas for how to reduce your footprint?

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