November 25th, 2013
As someone who works for Climate Counts I want to believe that everyone is completely ready to make the jump to become a conscious consumer by using green rankings and scorecards to inform their buying behaviors. Alas, it just seems like too big of a leap.
As your fairly average plain-Jane college student, I spend a lot of time doing average college kid things with other average college kids (minus my intense love for trees and anything green). Having seen firsthand these college creatures in their element, I have noticed a couple things. Humans are a couple things: first off we are creatures of habit and we appreciate convenience. Brand loyalty is a big deal, especially when it comes to buying our everyday products. We hardly think about it and grab what we’ve always grabbed. It may be what our parents used, and their parents before them! Plus we’ve used it before and we know it will work. This is what companies strive for, you get one person to be brand loyal and you usually have them for life. Everyone loves brand loyalty.
Second, since I am in college, I know there is pretty much only one reason college-aged people will switch from their loyal brands, and that is for something cheaper (usually the store brand). Hey, there is a reason we are called poor college kids. If it’s cheaper, we’re going to buy it. And, finally, the third reason people aren’t ready to vote with their dollars for eco-friendly products is that some just don’t know or understand the environmental issues that society is facing. Maybe they have never heard of it or have yet to be educated.
But have no fear! Just because people aren’t ready now doesn’t mean they will never be. Here are a few things I think could get consumers to finally be ready. First off, if someone is brand loyal and won’t switch, then the company itself should lead by example by offering low-impact product alternatives (for example, highly energy efficient electronics with recycled packaging). Many companies are not only becoming more sustainable but they are advertising it, helping to spread the word. Then without even realizing it, you’ve got yourself an eco-conscious consumer. The trick is to make products that are good for the environment, but don’t cost more, and are of equal or better quality and style! Second, we need to understand that people are a little selfish. Some people will switch to a brand because of its sustainable practices but others simply don’t really care. So how do you get those people to switch? Make it about them! Being sustainable often comes with the stigma of costing more money, but this is not usually the case. The best way to get people to become climate conscious is to show them how it will help them personally. “What does this do for me?” A simplified example would be, Buy one reusable water bottle and save x amount of dollars by not buying plastic water bottles every week.
The general public may not be ready for score cards at the moment, but that does not mean we will never be. There are signs everywhere that society and consumers are changing their ways and this is forcing many big companies to follow. With maybe a few more changes, and continuing education about green rankings like the Climate Counts scorecard, we will arrive at a whole new way of shopping in no time!
UNH Communications major. Climate Counts Communications Fellow