Consumerism Provides Key Insights Into Best Practice Green Methods

Posted on January 20, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Projects outlining individual actions are gaining significant traction. “What would it be like to try to live a no impact lifestyle? Is it possible? Could it catch on? Is living this way more fun or less fun? More satisfying or less satisfying? Harder or easier? Is it worthwhile or senseless? Are we all doomed or is there hope?”

These are all questions Colin Beavan asks on his Noimpactman blog. He’s a New Yorker who threw his family in at the deep end by embarking on a documented one-year attempt at living the no impact life.

The fact that answers to his questions are not common knowledge combined with people’s increased interest in green lifestyle is indicative of where individuals are in their thinking. Beavan writes from a feeling of impatience with ‘senators and the CEOs to change the way we treat the world’. It’s taking too long, Beavan says, adding that the project is a protest against his ‘highly-principled, lowly-actioned former self’.

It is bizarre, but consumerism itself provides much needed pointers. “Shopping, that traditionally most narcissistic of consumer actions, may actually lead us to civically reengage”, says Alex Steffen, executive director at, a Seattle-based organization that ‘works from the simple premise that the tools, models and ideas for building a better future only need to be connected’. “We’ve got to lobby for better regulatory policies, investment in responsible companies, boycott bad players, destroy or reinforce companies’ brands and influence the media,” Steffen believes. On a global scale, this message appears to be best understood by US shoppers. Elsewhere in the world, individuals are beginning to group together too. New consumer based peer buying initiatives are sprouting up around the globe.

Analyzing the prerequisites of the consumer intention economy Trendwatching, a Dutch consultancy in Amsterdam, says that “it all comes down to letting consumers make their buying intentions known and inviting one or multiple suppliers to bid for their business.” It’s as simple as that. Yet the implications of consumers’ changed buying patterns are huge. Doc Searls, an Intention Economy specialist at Linux Magazine believes “the Intention Economy is built around truly open markets, not a collection of silos. In the Intention Economy, customers don’t have to fly from silo to silo, collecting deal info (and unavoidable hype). In the Intention Economy, the buyer notifies the market of the intent to buy, and sellers compete for the buyer’s purchase.”

Trendwatching spotted a ‘growing number of intermediaries helping individual consumers to get a quote or offer based on their intentions’. But most initiatives that are intermediated by so called ‘information brokers’ focus on only one product/category such as airline tickets, real estate or banking services, the consultancy says. To find the appropriate site individual buying of series of ordinary products is still virtually uncharted territory.

Just how prepared established companies are to cave in to consumer demands to change polluting production methods isn’t clear as yet. There might be no ‘logic’ in companies’ meeting consumer demand to create for instance a no impact lifestyle, but if alternative models are successful, they might have no choice.


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