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So how do you save the planet?
October 11, 2006, Matthew Horne

RED has been thinking hard about how best to reduce carbon emissions by influencing consumer behaviour. There seem to be two options available to the government.

RED has been thinking hard about how best to reduce carbon emissions by influencing consumer behaviour. There seem to be two options available to the government.

Firstly, to regulate polluters to produce more low carbon products and services. This sounds attractive but it is much easier to regulate emissions from a few coal fired power stations, than regulate the enegergy efficiency of millions of household products. If the government banned inefficient light bulbs, TVs, or cars, new and equally inefficient products would emerge just as quickly as the old ones disappeared. Companies are brilliant at getting round these types of rules. Its how they make money.

The second option is to put a price on carbon emissions which makes green products and services more cheaper and more desirable than polluting ones. Sounds great. The market adjusts and produces more green goods and the old high carbon alternatives fade away through competition. The weakness here is how do you put a price on carbon? Do you use carbon credits and trading (see earlier blog posts) or do you use tax? And what happens when cheaper goods are seen by the public as less desirable - like in the car market or the housing market? Finally, the government has taxed petrol hugely for years so why hasn't petrol been replaced by cheaper greener fuels for our cars? Clearly the market doesn't work every time!

CATEGORY:

Paula Thornton, October 15, 2006

The market might not work, but economics always does. It's a matter of understanding exactly how much people value something and just where their tipping point lies. Until the cost of gas exceeds an individual's buying potential (going beyond disposable income and credit), they will not rethink their behaviors. But businesses are the same way, in the States, aluminum companies are allowed to 'waste' huge volumes of electricity because they are allowed to buy energy at a cost of 1/1000th that which the consumer pays. Cement plants are allowed to spew pollutants into nearby communities that are killing the residents because they have convinced government and the community that to do otherwise would put them out of business and would kill the community financially (putting loss of jobs at odds with loss of life).

Its all about choices. But as the fundamentals of economics are often not included in design school curriculum, the key principles of this discipline are not embraced as they could/should be. The solutions are not in the answers, but in the questions.

Angus Bearn, October 16, 2006

Hi - fuel tax is a very efficient means of cutting use, once it starts to bite! Right now, with a half-mile bus fare in London 1.50 and (on a good day) a thirty minute wait, who but the carless would take the bus?

Russell Compton, December 7, 2006

I am a forth year student at the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD) and I have had a keen interest in this very issue for some years now. To the extent that my final year-long project encompasses this topic. There is a few conclusions which I have come to.
1) Regulation doesn't work. This is a reactive mesure and not a proactive one. As Matthew Horne stated above, companies are quite good at getting around legislation
2)Consumers do have choice, what they required is incentives to change current behaviour patterns. Social responsability just doesn't resonate heavily enough with the masses (especially here in North America)
3)Determinig whether a product or service is "good" or "bad" is very difficult, time consuming, often contenuos, and requires a lot of information. Consumers require a more simplified method in order to make "good" choices. The various eco-labels of the world have made excellent progress here, but in my opinion more can be done.
4)Unfortunately green products are deemed to be a premium and priced accorrdingly. What is frustrating about this is companies that adopt green methods, often save incredible amounts of money and these saving are passed on to shareholders and not consumers.
5)Saving the environment is a very abstract concept and very hard to visualize for most people. Some form of feed back is required to let people know that their efforts are not in fact futile.

The questions arise: How do you effectively incent green product choices?
How do you let people know what they have done is benefiting the greater good?

Russell Compton, December 7, 2006

I am a forth year student at the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD) and I have had a keen interest in this very issue for some years now. To the extent that my final year-long project encompasses this topic. There is a few conclusions which I have come to.
1) Regulation doesn't work. This is a reactive mesure and not a proactive one. As Matthew Horne stated above, companies are quite good at getting around legislation
2)Consumers do have choice, what they required is incentives to change current behaviour patterns. Social responsability just doesn't resonate heavily enough with the masses (especially here in North America)
3)Determinig whether a product or service is "good" or "bad" is very difficult, time consuming, often contenuos, and requires a lot of information. Consumers require a more simplified method in order to make "good" choices. The various eco-labels of the world have made excellent progress here, but in my opinion more can be done.
4)Unfortunately green products are deemed to be a premium and priced accorrdingly. What is frustrating about this is companies that adopt green methods, often save incredible amounts of money and these saving are passed on to shareholders and not consumers.
5)Saving the environment is a very abstract concept and very hard to visualize for most people. Some form of feed back is required to let people know that their efforts are not in fact futile.

The questions arise: How do you effectively incent green product choices?
How do you let people know what they have done is benefiting the greater good?

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