Redefining appeal and product value is part of the green marketer’s job
Sustainable design should include aesthetic, ecological and savings benefits
As a follow-up to last month’s column on marketing green products to non-green audiences, let’s take things a notch higher.
As you read this, I’m off to Houston, Texas, in the US to give a speech at a green buildings conference called “Making Green Sexy.”
The interesting thing about that idea is that “sexy” is in the eye of the beholder — which is a good thing for those of us who don’t look like supermodels and still manage to have loving relationships.
Last month, I mentioned the Tesla roadster, something that would fit most people’s definition of sexy. It’s a super-sporty car, full of Coke-bottle curves. It screams speed, power, luxury and high status. (If you don’t know what it looks like, you can see pictures at www.teslamotors.com/roadster ). It also happens to be the highest-performing electric car that’s ever been out on the market.
Yes, I’ll be showing a picture of the Tesla roadster in my talk in Texas. But I’ll also show a picture of Amory Lovins’ ultra-efficient house (built back in 1983 in the Colorado Rockies), which is not what most people would define as sexy – at least until they look closely.
Tesla’s all-electric high-performance Roadster is not only attractive to behold, but also zero-emission and easy to recharge. As global values change, so do market perceptions of what makes a product desirable and in tune with the times (photo credit: Tesla)
What makes Lovins’ home sexy is not its looks — which are unusual, and certainly not in keeping with today’s styles (though reasonably attractive to my eyes). Rather, this is what I find sexy about it:
• Despite the cold, snowy winters and hot, sunny summers in the Aspen, Colorado snowbelt (one of the downhill skiing capitals of the United States), this house has neither a furnace nor an air-conditioner – because it doesn’t need either one.
• The sunroom is warm enough, even during the winter, that Lovins actually grows bananas inside.
• At 4,000 square feet (371.6 square meters), it’s big enough to compare with the grand mansions that we popularly think of as sexy.
• Because expensive items like heating and cooling systems weren’t purchased, the extra cost of the green and sustainable energy features paid for itself in just ten months.
• As a passive solar home, much of the energy savings was achieved by thinking, designing and building holistically so that a single component might achieve multiple goals; Lovins referred to one arch in his house that accomplishes 12 different functions.
• Long before the term “cradle-to-cradle” came into use, this house was designed to close as many loops as possible, and to produce almost no waste.
• Even using 1983 technology, which we in the solar and green world would consider quite primitive by today’s standards, the house makes nearly all of its own electricity (when I heard Lovins speak several years ago, he said he averaged a US$5 electricity bill for the residential portion of his home/office – and even if higher energy prices have brought that up to, say, US$25, that’s still quite remarkable).
What’s really sexy to me about the Lovins house is not even the individual features. It’s the potential for worldwide planet-saving. Think about what kind of world we’d be living in right now if, for the past 29 years since Lovins proved it was feasible, most houses had been built along these lines.
• Atmospheric carbon would be greatly reduced – probably well below the 350 parts-per-million danger zone that we are now exceeding – and thus, global warming would not be a desperate situation.
• Pollution from burning of fossil fuels (and from extracting them from the earth) would be a tiny fraction of what it is now, and this in turn would mean sharply reduced healthcare costs because a lot fewer people would be getting sick.
• Because there would be no need for the world’s largest economies to chase after oil reserves, foreign policy would have been reshaped – away from wars over energy resources and toward inspiring real democracy and economic self-sufficiency.
• And finally, all that capital that’s been spent on buying energy would have been freed up to invest elsewhere causing a flowering of technology and the arts, and a massive rise in living standards around the world.
This kind of world should have been our inheritance. Let’s at least make it our legacy.