Is it cheap, easy and cool? How people adopt sustainable habits
Those of us who work in the sustainability space are already fairly far along in our sustainability journey. Usually, we’re well-researched, passionate about the planet, and going out of our way to make positive choices.
But we weren’t always at that stage. Even if it was back in childhood or teenage-hood, there was a time when all of us weren’t aware of the scale of climate change’s threat. We didn’t understand the problems with overconsumption.
(For example, while I’ve always cared about nature and the planet, when I was growing up, I never knew about the link between what we buy and environmental damage. Shopping was the main social activity for me and my friends.)
And even when we do know what the most sustainable choice is, we don’t always do it. And there are three primary reasons for that – either it’s too expensive, it’s too much hassle, or it’s not cool (e.g. ethical but ugly wardrobe choices).
That’s why Hannah Cox of the Better Business Network always says that sustainable solutions should be cheap, easy, and cool if we want people to adopt them.
Let’s stop putting people off
There’s a misconception that we should have to be martyrs to have the planet. But that’s just not true.
In fact, price and lack of accessibility in particular are real barriers for a lot of people. And for wide-scale change, we need everyone to be adopting sustainable habits, not just those rich in time and money.
So as regenerative businesses, we need to be looking for solutions that are cheap, easy & cool.
Cheap – it’s not a dirty word
One of the biggest barriers to adopting sustainable habits is the perception that they are expensive.
And, in fact, products that are marketed as “sustainable” often are. Frequently, this is due to the fact that clean energy is used, or that workers are paid a fair wage.
But actually, reducing overall consumption should be the goal. And luckily, that’s free.
So instead of creating new products that are only financially accessible to a minority, we need to focus on solutions that allow people to access the resources they need, in a sustainable way, without breaking the bank.
For example, sharing models inspired by the concept of degrowth allow people to rent or borrow expensive items or services. This means fewer products need to be purchased and produced, and people can save money. Win-win!
Convenience is key
Why make things harder than they need to be? When creating a sustainable product or service, we need to go further to encourage people to adopt it.
For example, I’d love to only buy zero-waste, plastic free products. But the zero waste shop in Birmingham is a twenty-minute walk away. I have to spend time figuring out what containers I’ll need, find them, and wash them.
I have to carry back heavy containers of food. And I can’t get everything I need there. So it’s no surprise that I usually end up at Morrisons, which is just round the corner and has everything I need.
Identifying the barriers to people using your product or service is key.
It’s not always easy, but spending that extra time considering all aspects of accessibility and ease can have a big effect on your bottom line. And in turn, your scope 3 carbon emissions.
Cool as a cucumber
Us humans are easily influenced. When something is cool, people are much more likely to get on board.
“Cool” is, of course, a subjective term. It might mean attractive design. It might mean helping a customer achieve something in a new and innovative way. It might mean that’s something’s trendy – people are talking about it and telling their friends.
This is where the traditional principles of product design and marketing come in.
As individuals who are passionate about the environment, we want sustainability to be front and centre – which it should be! But if we want people to adopt our products or services, we can’t forget the basics.
Troubleshooting your offerings
If you’re feeling stuck in your sustainable business, putting your head together with others can really help.
I love being a member of the Better Business Network – a community of business owners working for planet & people as well as profit. In particular, I’d recommend their monthly S.M.A.R.T mentoring sessions with Jannine Barron. Each month, one person is in the “hot seat” and we brainstorm solutions and ideas together for a specific business issue.
And for support with marketing and communicating your company (helping hook in your customers and showing how cool your offering is!), I’m happy to help. Whether it’s persuasive copywriting or content strategy, let’s show people what’s great about what you’re doing!