Think about this:
‘Everything else is designed for you to throw away when you are finished with it. But where is “away”? Of course, “away” doesn’t really exist. “Away” has gone away.’ (Cradle to Cradle)
Don’t throw it away. There is no away. [seen on a painting at London Art Fair, can’t remember what the artist name was]
I think this was one of the quotes that most impressed me from a book I recently read called Cradle to Cradle (McDonough / Braungart). Impress might not be the right word. It blew me away (well, there is no away, but you get my drift). I had never thought about it this way. There is no away. Just because I throw it out, doesn’t mean it disappears into thin air.
The book really got me thinking about sustainability and the environment and that kinda jazz. And that automatically leads to feeling guilty and bad. We know we’re doing the wrong thing, but I don’t want to be told what I’m doing wrong constantly. That’s what I think from a marketing perspective is the biggest problem with all things green: they make me feel bad. Guilty. And that ain’t making me wanting to grab my purse. Not really.
In the book, the authors phrase it like this:
‘Instead of providing an inspiring and exciting vision for change, conventional environmental approaches focus on what NOT to do… Like our ancestors, we may react automatically, with terror and guilt, and we may look for ways to purge ourselves — which the eco-efficiency movement provides in abundance, with its exhortations to produce and consume less by minimizing, avoiding, reducing and sacrificing… The goal is zero: zero waste, zero emissions, zero ‘ecological footprint’. As long as human beings are regarded as bad ‘zero’ is a good goal. But to be less bad is to accept things as they are, to believe that poorly designed, dishonorable, destructive systems are the BEST humans can do. This is the ultimate failure of the ‘be less bad’ approach: a failure of the imagination.’ (Cradle to Cradle)
Hurrah. Less bad is a failure of the imagination. Less bad is dead. Let’s go for good. I love good. Good makes me feel good. It makes me want to buy it, sell it, flog it, advertise it, engage with it, and share it.
One of the ideas I liked best in the book was the idea of products as a service:
‘Instead of assuming that all products are to be bought, owned, and disposed of by “consumers”, products containing valuable technical nutrients – cars, televisions, carpeting, computers, and refrigerators for example – would be reconceived as services for people to enjoy. In this scenario customers (a more apt term for the users of these products) would effectively purchase the service of such a product for a defined user period.’ (Cradle to Cradle)
Wow, so how cool is this? You don’t buy a washing machine as a product, but as a service. In 5 years time I will return it to the manufacturer who will take it apart and make new products from it. Now THAT is an idea you can sell. Marketers, innovators, CEO’s of the world: here’s a disruptive business model. Right there. Think of car sharing services such as Zipcar or Streetcar. Or the Velib scheme in Paris. Products are dead. Long live the product as a service.
And finally, to close, here’s what the Cradle to Cradle guys say (and they are so much more eloquent than I am):
‘Should manufactures or existing products feel guilty about their complicity in this heretofore destructive agenda? Yes. No. It doesn’t matter. Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. Negligence is described as doing the same thing over and over even though you know it’s dangerous, stupid or wrong. Now that we know, it’s time for a change. Negligence starts tomorrow.’
[edit 15/03: just found a TED talk by one of the authors of Cradle to Cradle, William McDonough, check it out here.]