|A way to influence consumers and producers23-06-2013 22:35
A non-profit group that manages the "Earth" (name to be decided later) logo: a picture of the world that can be stamped on products (like the American Heart Association's "Heart-Check" mark) to let consumers know that the product was made in accordance with environmental standards aimed at fighting global warming.
Just as you can go to the store and can choose from very healthy, natural products to sugary boxes of cereal that are still marked with the "Heart-Check" mark, so will the "Earth" logo be stamped on a wide variety of products – from yogurt to sneakers to sweaters. And just as companies like Nestle own organic companies and organic product lines, so, too, will other businesses now have the incentive to create their own more-environmentally friendly line of products. Except no need to go the route of quietly purchasing and changing over already-established environmentally-friendly businesses. Nike will still make its normal sneakers, but perhaps they can also be enticed to put out a line of sneakers bearing this emblem – sneakers made with a little less water and a little less fossil fuel emissions.
Environmental standards will be set for each industry and product as necessary by experts – probably a panel of scientists and those in the industry, so that a compromise can be met for what is needed and what is possible. Standards will also be updated regularly (EG every five years) to reflect gains in technology that allows for more efficient manufacturing, and because of the environment's increasing need for our help. The initial goal of this endeavor is to set standards low enough to attract a wide variety of (big) business, but still enough to make a difference for our poor environment, particularly when you consider that these standards are being applied by big business, and so will have the largest result.
The non-profit founded to manage the "Earth" logo will be responsible for contacting and convincing companies to use the symbol, working with companies to help define and meet their lower-emission/waste goal, ensuring that companies are adhering to said standards, and raising public knowledge about the purpose of the "Earth" logo because knowing is half the battle, folks.
Why will consumers buy these products?
Environmentally-conscious consumers will purchase these products, namely those who already have a preference for the organic label (which, as mentioned above, has already done an excellent job of attracting big biz's eye) and those who for budgetary reasons purchase many big business products but would like to be able to afford more environmentally-friendly products. Because with big business involved, consumers will benefit from the economies of scale made possible by products made for the mass market, which in turn will allow these products to be more affordable to a wider-variety of consumers. IE you and me.
Why will companies choose to use this logo?
Companies will use this logo because of the demand from consumers. Already there has been a seismic shift in consumer preference for products labeled "organic" and "natural" – enough of a shift to draw in businesses like Nestle and Coca-Cola. It's a $20-30 billion a year industry in the US alone, and while this means the majority of these products are not as "pure"/environmentally friendly as one might wish, the savings realized by the consumer thanks to the increased demand have only helped make organic products more affordable than ever. The "Earth" logo will allow non-food corporations to take advantage of this already-established consumer preference.
There is also the possibility of a higher profit margin for these products, as already is realized by organic farmers and manufacturers. (See CBC's great "Doc Zone" about organic farming, and the Californian farmer they interview who's not concerned about the environmental impact of pesticides, but has switched to organic purely because of the higher profit margin.)
Why the logo? Why not just buy organic food and natural-fiber sneakers?
The purpose of the logo is draw big business in – to give incentive to mass-market producers to clean up their act. Yes, more environmentally-friendly products already exist and are more popular than ever, but they're still just a drop in the bucket, a fraction of all products produced. Big business and their already-popular products will be able to reach the largest amount of people. I mean, Nike's already going to be making millions and millions of sneakers: let's just try to give them an incentive to make sneakers with a lower impact on the environment.
The logo also means that standards will be set. Just like right now you can buy a box of "natural" crackers filled with very unnatural-sounding ingredients, so, too, can companies write a short paragraph on their product, explaining the environmentally-friendly steps they've taken in the creation of this product (recycled materials, etc) and while even a little step is a good step, how beneficial is their product to the environment, really? With the "Earth" logo, you'll know that this product was made to certain standards.
Further, while many organic companies are more environmentally-conscious than "standard" companies, there is always room for improvement in reducing one's carbon footprint. After all, the focus for the organic movement is the reduction or absence of chemical pesticides – a worthy and important goal; but the "Earth" logo is concerned entirely with reducing the carbon footprint of manufacturing. Thus an organic product will not be able to use the "Earth" logo unless their manufacturing process is up to a certain level. (Although I would argue that not using pesticides—just like cutting out any manufactured product from your life—will mean less factories and shipping, and so less carbon emissions. And so organic food products probably already have an advantage over their non-organic competitors, but I won't just take their word for it. Still room for improvement, after all.)
Brief plan on how to make this idea reality:
This is the most efficient way I can imagine this idea working:
1. Discuss this idea with like-minded people online to work out the kinks in the idea, to either reject it entirely or improve upon it.
2. Gather a large amount of support online (create website, utilize social media, collect donations) to show that enough potential consumers believe in this
3. File the paperwork to create the non-profit (this is #3 as I know I cannot do all this alone, and so am basically looking for a few good men to crop up online, willing and able to devote their time and skills)
4. Use the non-profit to reach out to big business, Al Gore, maybe Oprah
Other thoughts and questions:
There's the possibility of making a gold "Earth" logo, to be stamped on products that are the leaders for their field (IE lowest impact on the environment). Added incentive for the manufacturers to go for the gold, as ideally sales of the "gold" products will be enticing.
Now, obviously there's a lot of people out there who either don't believe in global warming or don't care. But here again the "Earth" label will benefit them: how many people, now elderly, have fond memories of going to their favorite swimming hole, now poison thanks to the factory next door? I'm not saying this idea will clean up that lake/river/creek, but it'll help promote corporate behavior to do so. And that's what the non-profit will help emphasize. Regulations can only go so far: you can try to get the government to pass stricter manufacturing laws, but fighting big business is an efficient battle: they many, many lobbyists, and their pockets will always be deeper than yours. Instead, give big business the incentive to change their behavior based on consumer preference, which in turn will be informed by awareness campaigns.
The biggest problem as I see it is gathering the support needed (EG in the form of "likes" on Facebook, as well as donations), of convincing enough people that this is a feasible idea, and so convince big business that it's worth it to invest the millions needed to upgrade their equipment, change their manufacturing process, and launch an advertising campaign. Ideally the non-profit will have raised sufficient funds to help with advertising, but there's no such thing as too much awareness for this matter. I read another article this morning about global warming (completely clear skies over Alaska = very bad, apparently. Sigh), about how our climate models always underestimate the impact of climate change, and so, basically, how we're all (pardon) screwed.
I'm tired of that feeling: I'm tired of feeling like there's nothing I can do to prevent climate change. But maybe there is. Probably, this idea will be rejected, but at least I got it out of my head. Al Gore tried as well, with his documentary, and maybe that did impact consumer decision-making...for about five minutes. He spends the majority of the documentary overwhelming you with the enormity of global warming, and then spends the last few minutes telling you that by simply doing a handful of things (buying certain light bulbs, tinkering with your thermostat), YOU can fix things.
So you walked out of the theater, went to the store, and, well, there are some things you simply have to buy, even though you know that their manufacture hurt the environment. Or maybe you forgot what products he said to buy, and you don't have a smart phone (or don't want to spend a few minutes Googling – you're tired and want to get home), and remembering to Google this is at the bottom of your very stressful to-do list.
I've heard there are some apps for helping identify environmentally-friendly products, but as the average person doesn't have a smart phone, or frankly doesn't want to take the time to look up every product they buy, so I don't think that is feasible for making the kind of change I want to make. IE a change that will actually stop climate change. Further, I still think it's important to set standards for manufacturing and goals for the corporations in reducing their carbon footprint. And besides, this logo is intended to make things as easy as possible for the consumer: you don't need to do any research of the products (that's already been done), just buy the Earth-stamped products and know that these products are truly better for the environment than the competitors. I want people to feel empowered when they buy these things, to feel like they're actually making a difference, because they are.
Apologies for the length of this, but I think describing a way to change the entire manufacturing process will require a few words. And please lay out all your thoughts and criticism: if this is really a pointless idea, let me hear it. It's why I've posted this on the net, to hear brutally honest criticism. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I sincerely hope you have a great day.