While vegan boots and solar powered laptop chargers are wonderful demonstrations of the possibilities of sustainable design, many experts believe that a detectible positive impact will only be made when environmentally products are used by the majority.
This means that mainstream products used by millions of people, things like cars and phones, must be available in environmentally-friendly versions, and companies must begin to market these items based on environmental factors. There’s also the question of demand: if people don’t really see the advantages of purchasing a green product over it’s more traditional (and often cheaper) counterpart, the whole effort is for nothing.
Interestingly, mobile phones and other communication devices might be the first area to see a significant shift toward more eco-friendly development.
“A recent study by ABI Research found that nearly half of U.S. consumers would choose a green handset over a conventional phone if price, features and performance were the same.
ABI estimates the proportion of properly recycled handsets will grow from 8% in 2009 to 17% in 2014. A separate Juniper report predicts that even with an incremental shift in consumer attitudes, shipments of green phones will grow from 250,000 in 2009 to 105 million by 2014″ (MoBlog).
Despite this information, phone companies have been much slower than car companies to allow this demand to guide their development and marketing processes. Made from 80% recyclable material and released in August, the Reclaim, a phone offered by Sprint has been one of the only aggressively marketed green phone to date in the U.S.
Although some critics point to the name and (green) color of the Reclaim as an ostentatious marketing tactic, reviewers found that they phone was lightweight, responsive, and loaded with all the bells and whistles that smart phone users have come to expect.
While this is all well and good, it’s probably hard for you to name two friends that have one, or even the last time you saw the green handset pressed to someone’s ear on the street.
According to MoBlog, “Green choices don’t come into play the way [with phones] they do in more established sectors like consumer packaged goods or autos. That’s partly because handset makers so far aren’t trying to compete on environmental factors, focusing instead on more fundamental phone differences as they scramble for market share in a shifting mobile landscape.
Apart from any regulatory or legal requirements, it’s not likely manufacturers will focus more on environmental considerations until they see them as an important differentiating factor for consumers.”
What people should take away from the ABI and Juniper studies more than anything else is that companies will listen to consumers. The econ geniuses didn’t name it supply and DEMAND for nothing. If, as consumers, we consistently demonstrate that we prefer products made consiously and responsibly over those that are made cheaply and quickly, the industry will respond.
Image Credit: assets.gearlive.com