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The New Green Cool: Integral to Sustainability?

The green movement has an uncertain relationship to "cool." From the 1960s through the 70s, anti-establishment sentiment was running high enough that environmentalism could piggyback upon the civil rights movement, the Native rights movement, anti-material sentiments, and the belt-tightening of the energy crisis. While not everyone agreed that the earth deserved more respect, in the 80s, 90s and today the green movement has often found itself battling a "dirty hippie" image. Environmentalism became equated in some minds with an over-earnestness or a strident call to action. Is it possible to be modern-ironic-cool and still careful about one's ecological impact? Put another way, does being cutting-edge require a lot of stuff: new stuff that is rapidly replaced by the trends? This is what came to mind upon reading Treehugger's headline from yesterday: Greener by Design 2009: It Doesn't Matter If It's Sustainable If It Isn't Cool, and Other Insights. Take this quote from a Greener by Design panel with Method's Adam Lowry:

Adam Lowry: At Method, the mantra is "Innovation is design that creates change." That change could be anything from consumer attitudes, to changes in how an industry functions. The problem Method often finds itself having is that coming up with the innovations that create change is not lacking. No, the problem is getting consumers to keep up. Unfortunately, the company has seen that consumers simply don't want some of the innovations it has dreamed up because it's too far off from what the consumer is used to. So one of the tricks of sustainability is getting consumers to love what it is you have to offer. It doesn't matter if the product is sustainable if it isn't cool enough or familiar enough for a consumer to purchase it.

In this model, "coolness" not only sweetens the deal in any green transaction, it is really a requirement for a consumer to enter into the deal to begin with.

"Design" is something that we often associate with luxury, and "trend" with throwaway culture. Recently I came across the David Report, a Swedish "trend report" relating "design trends to social, economical and ecological patterns and phenomena's over the entire global - local scale. One of the reports I read was The Sustainable Wheel. Available in pdf and an online flip-through version that has the nice layouts of a print version without all the paper, the report changed some of my views about the role design has to play in the green movement. Check it out, it's beautifully done.

Tags: Beauty, Culture, Design, Green, Marketing, Movement

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