Published on: March 13, 2008Now available on iTunes
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Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio, brought to you by Webstop, experts in the art of retail website design.
I’ve been on a road a lot lately, and one of the upsides of my travels is that I’m generally able to bring with me a stack of newspapers, magazines and books that I previously was unable to get to. Or, when I’m in the airport newsstand, sometimes I’ll pick up a magazine that I’ve never read before, just out of curiosity. Sometimes this works out – for example, I became a fan of Wired magazine after buying one in an airport, and that’s how I learned about Chris Anderson’s theory of “The Long Tail.” On the other hand, it also was in an airport where I picked up an issue of Men’s Vogue, and if there is an equally useless men’s magazine on the planet, I haven't yet found it.
Then again, that’s just me.
There are some wonderful nuggets of truth to be found while perusing such magazines. For example, in the current edition of Fast Company, in an article about how many of the “green” claims made by many companies are either false or misleading, I found the following paragraph that certainly rings true:
“The challenge of green living is … simple: Achieve the same quality of life using less stuff and less energy. A truly green consumer won't buy 8,000 square feet of bamboo flooring because the label said it had been hand-rubbed by Nepalese children for a fair wage; she'll dump the McMansion and try to live in a walkable area close to work. A green business will not deploy teams of researchers to figure out which 20% post recycled-content copy paper to use; it will offer free bus or subway vouchers, start a carpooling program, and let workers telecommute one day a week. Being efficient on the big stuff packs much more environmental punch than the benefits that come from choosing between competing light-green product A and the kelly-green product B.
“The uncomfortable fact for many green marketers--and targets of that marketing—is that genuinely going green would mean giving up most of the products and services that clutter our consumer culture. It would mean simplifying, valuing time and people over stuff. How can most products avoid the sin of the hidden trade-off? With a simple label: ‘You don't really need this’.”
There is, of course, another uncomfortable truth. Most of us – and I count myself among the guilty parties on this issue – aren’t willing to really, really do what it takes to be environmentally responsible. We take half steps and make rationalizations – I try to walk more and drive less, I use canvas bags instead of plastic ones, but I’m not quite ready to give up the plastic water bottles that are so much a part of my lifestyle. I recycle them, but I’m not quite ready to part with them, despite the fact that they probably are as bad for the environment as the plastic bags I’m so militant about not using.
Hypocrite? Maybe. Sinner? Some would say so…though maybe we won’t go down that particular road in this space. Human? Most definitely. Which ultimately means that I can do better. We all can.
There is a lot of space on MorningNewsBeat devoted to these kinds of issues, and I think the reason I do so is that I think it is important for retailers and manufacturers to 1) educate consumers about their options, and 2) provide them with the opportunity, wherever possible and practical, to take advantage of as many of those options as possible. And as I’ve been saying for some time now, by doing so, perhaps the food industry can in fact stay ahead of the regulatory curve, to the point where government won’t be able to intervene and regulate the use of various kinds of bags or plastic bottles of whatever. Retailers and manufacturers will have behaved responsibly, and in the end, I believe, consumers will respond in kind.
Which to my mind, is vastly preferable to rules and regulations.
Not everyone thinks I feel that way, of course. I got an email from a MorningNewsBeat user yesterday asking me if there was any form of human behavior that I didn’t want to see the government regulate. I think he was annoyed by the fact that I thought it made sense for the US Senate to look into the new water contamination story that broke this week.
But I had a quick answer for him: Yes, there is at least one area of human behavior that the government should stay away from:
For MorningNewsBeat Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
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