If consumer and business media are any indication, sustainability and green living are all the rage right now. Yet, there may still be a lot of people who think the concept is too different from their own way of life to adopt. Or, there's the reverse psychology of those determinedly not wanting to be into "green," just because everyone else is. Does sustainability then come to a full stop? I don't think so. The question is: how do we normalize eco-conscious behavior for the masses?
The answer lies in re-framing and helping those who are still suspicious of "green" to see themselves already participating in green decision-making. Environmental change agents can inspire further sustainable living momentum by focusing on what everyone may have in common with all those hippy Volvo-drivers -- to take the cliché to its nth degree. The fact is that there may be an eco-conscious soul lurking inside many more of us than we've been able to count.
Frugality, for example, could be another way of framing environmentally-responsible behavior. And, there are a lot of people identifying with frugal values today. Consuming less and focusing on higher, durable quality is both a frugal and sustainable perspective. So, it seems to follow that people who may not see themselves as "thinking green" might actually be behaving green just the same. This means they actually do have something in common with the green hipster lifestyle they keep hearing about, but still don't want to "join," as such.
Moms are another significant sample of our population who can find a lot of common ground about life and buying practices, and which could well be called sustainable. Their focus is very pointedly on the health, safety and long-term well-being of their kids. To that end, a recent study of mom bloggers by the Social Studies Group -- full disclosure: we have a business relationship -- illuminated something pretty interesting. This is how the SSG's Angela Walseng put it when I interviewed her about the findings:
There are so many different definitions and stereotypes of this lifestyle that one can hardly be aware of all that they are doing that is green. There was an overwhelming response to this survey -- by email and in the comments -- that the women did not think of some of their actions as green until it was framed as such in our questions. This really speaks to the level of normalization of eco-conscious behaviors.
Along these same lines, there are corporations that have long been pursuing energy efficiency, for instance, but may not yet be framing their actions as sustainable. So, what if framing such actions as sustainable made the idea of actually committing to it, and in even greater ways, more accessible to the minds of those making company decisions? Rather than feeling very polarized or left behind by green trends and touted sustainable business leaders, there'd perhaps be an opening for the under-the-radar, sustainably-progressing organization to realize they are in similar shoes. And, that may be a much better way to encourage their continuing movement in that direction.
For both consumers and corporations, the point is that starting toward sustainability may not be as big a leap as you'd think.
Curbside recycling for consumers or a single corporate "green team" initiative does not a sustainable practice make. Nor, should such low level steps be the basis for labeling yourself or your organization "green." However, significant personal or organizational change is more likely to result when the very large task seems possible. As parents, many people have likely already been doing very green-minded things in their households. And, plenty of smart companies have long-since found great cost-savings in resource efficiencies, as well.
There are many benefits of pursuing sustainability that go beyond making the news as a "green" company or consumer. So why not think of a few more and continue with that journey? Eco-consciousness is rapidly becoming the new normal. It turns out that a lot of responsible parents and corporations are to some degree "doing" sustainability without realizing it. Smart thinking and responsible decision-making just happen to cast a warm green glow.