10 Trends for a Green New Year

From Affordability to Plastic Alternatives, Consumers Are Moving Toward Eco-consciousness

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Diana Verde Nieto
Diana Verde Nieto
Green is the new black. At Clownfish, we believe that it isn't a fad. Sustainability is here to stay. But for those who aren't experts in the field, it can often be complicated to navigate what products and services are actually doing the right things for the environment. How can consumers determine if a product is "green"? Are there ways to uncover whether a company is "greenwashing," or making false claims by using misleading PR tactics? Are your favorite brands throwing buzzwords like "environmentally friendly" around to cause confusion? Here's a list of 10 sustainability trends that consumers will be watching out for:

1. From green premium prices to an affordable green

Many consumers have shied away from green products because of their premium prices; a 2009 Mintel survey found that 54% of consumers would purchase more sustainable, green products if the price wasn't higher than nongreen products. Affordable green products, from shopping bags to green electricity, will become even more prevalent in the next year. There are already some green products that actually are cheaper than the alternatives, including the latest-model car s, washing machines, cleaning products and some stores' own, branded paper products. Mintel forecasts 19% growth for green products by 2013.

2. From growing energy bills to smart meters

With fluctuating gas and electricity bills, and an increasing desire to own electronic products, how will consumers exert control over their use of energy? The smart meter, a digital electricity and gas meter, allows them to see exactly what their energy costs, second by second. Turn on a hair dryer and watch the figures soar, or unplug the TV and watch the numbers drop. This device makes consumers conscious of how their energy use changes and what it is costing them every minute. Clownfish expects energy-saving gadgets to be the new must-haves for households.

3. From quick buys to informed shoppers

According to The Drum, 81% of consumers place more importance on what companies do than what they say. Clownfish predicts that this year, more consumers will investigate what companies' brands are doing. Thanks to the Internet and the power of online search, it has never been easier to assess what consumers' favorite brands are doing for the environment and charities, so they'll be shopping wisely.

4. From green geeks to green celebs

Green is the new status symbol. Green products and lifestyles are definitely no longer for tree huggers. Noir has launched luxury eco-fashion products, including organically certified African cotton products, and Linda Loudermilk's Couture line includes glamorous and sophisticated pieces made from bamboo and soya. This new luxury eco-fashion is increasingly more available, and celebrities are also jumping on the environmental bandwagon. Lindsay Lohan is wearing secondhand clothing for environmental reasons, Alicia Silverstone is a vegetarian and Leonardo DiCaprio co-produced, wrote and narrated the eco-documentary "11th Hour" to, he said, "raise awareness about global warming and the problems we face in promoting a sustainable environmental future for our planet." Clownfish suggests that being green will become increasingly trendy and chic. How trendy are you?

5. From greenwash to green verification

Many businesses have tried to capitalize on the growing green trend, but this has led to the increase of greenwashing -- the deceptive use of green marketing. As a result, 70% of consumers don't think companies are genuine when they talk about how they help the environment and society, according to Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS). We have already seen partnerships formed to help verify claims, including between Coca-Cola and the World Wildlife Federation. After all, 64% of consumers want third-party verification, according to GfK-Roper. Clownfish hopes that credible partnerships will enable companies to respond with honest and transparent communications about their sustainability issues, helping consumers trust brands once again.

6. From a green fad to global awareness

Many of us remember environmental issues hitting the media in the past, with people being chained to trees in the 1980s, campaigns to protect polar bears in the 1990s and lobbying efforts for a ban on fox hunting in England, in this century. Nongovernmental organizations such as WWF and Greenpeace have often taken the lead on these environmental issues. But now NGOs are campaigning about environmental issues that we can all relate to across the world.

Combining this with political campaigns, film productions and a general media frenzy, awareness of environmental problems has soared in the 21st century. According to National Geographic's Greendex survey, in the 14 countries polled, each is achieving a level of sustainable consumption for environmental reasons. The world is greening, and this is gaining momentum every month. Clownfish suggests you keep yourself up-to-date on green issues because they are here to stay.

7. From geeky gadgets to thoughtful technology

In 2009, environmentally conscious gadgets developed a market of their own, with green gadgets increasing in practicality and consumer choice continuing to expand. We are moving away from crazy gadgets -- such as an eco-hair dryer that produces minimal hot air, leaving your hair as damp as when you left the shower -- or "wormeries" for composting leftover food.

Even large corporations are developing green products, including Apple's 17-inch MacBook Pro made of recyclable aluminum with 34% less packaging than the previous model. Going astep further, Motorola Inc. has made a phone entirely from recycled plastic bottles, with recycled packaging and prepaid envelopes to send phones back to Motorola for reuse. We suggest you keep your eye on green gadgets.

8. From excess labeling to learning your labels

Most consumers are aware of the credible and authentic fair trade and Forest Stewardship Council labels. But labels around organic, local-sourcing, carbon footprints and water footprints lack definition and transparency.

9. From excess packaging to real reductions

Downsizing packaging is becoming a trend among businesses as landfill taxes are set to increase. But if you want to help consumers do their bit for those overflowing landfills, think small, recycled and recyclable.

10. From plastic bags to alternative bags

Everyone is probably sick of hearing about the environmental damage caused by plastic bags -- such as they take 1,000 years to degrade or that we use up to 1 trillion plastic bags worldwide every year. In 2010, alternative bags, such as cotton or recycled-content bags, will increase in popularity -- and plastic bags, we hope, will be a thing of the past.

Diana Verde Nieto is CEO of Clownfish, a global sustainability and communications consultancy and part of Aegis Media.
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