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Responsible Consumption: The Next Frontier in Green Marketing

by Jacquelyn Ottman  |  
March 30, 2011

In this article, you'll learn...

  • How to make your company greener and still profit
  • Four examples of green marketing successes
  • How you and your customer can engage in responsible consumption

The following article is adapted from The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding (Berrett-Koehler, February 2011).

Is Tom's of Maine toothpaste really green if consumers leave the water running while they brush their teeth? Is an ENERGY STAR-rated light bulb really green if it remains on after everyone leaves the room?

It is one thing to design a product to be greener, but the negative environmental impact made throughout a product's life-cycle cannot be minimized unless the consumer uses (and disposes of it) responsibly.

"Responsible consumption"—what I consider the next frontier of green marketing—is about conserving resources associated with using products. That includes encouraging consumers to use only what is needed and consciously reduce waste.

Sustainability leaders are striving for the ideal goals of zero waste and zero energy, but we will never get to zero until people learn to responsibly consume and properly dispose of the products they buy.

The Consumer's Role

As any life-cycle assessment will show, consumer usage can account for a significant portion of a product's total environmental impact, especially products such as laundry detergents, soaps, and shampoos that require resources, energy, and water to work.

Manufacturers can design products to make it easier for consumers to minimize resource use, such as a duplex printing feature on a printer, or a dual-flush toilet. Real-time information, such as Toyota's dashboard and the new crop of energy meters and monitoring services, also help. But only consumers can push the "cold" button on the washing machine or turn off the water when they brush.

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Jacquelyn Ottman is an expert adviser on green marketing to Fortune 500 companies and the US government. She is author of four books on the subject; her latest is The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools, and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding. (Berrett-Koehler, February 2011).

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  • by Let Kermit be Green Wed Mar 30, 2011 via web

    Does this mean hair shirts will become fashionable?

  • by TP Wed Mar 30, 2011 via web

    More drivel than substance.

  • by The B&B Coach Tue Apr 5, 2011 via web

    Re: TP's comment - it's all about knowing who your market is. As a B&B owner, I am privileged to host many people from overseas countries who find North American attitudes to energy costs and water usage repugnant. In addition, there is a whole niche market of younger, more environmentally people who understand the risks and are willing to pay more staying at an environmentally friendly B&B. I think this provides great ideas not only for bed and breakfast owners to use in their own practices, but to consider when promoting their product.

  • by Owen Frager Thu Apr 7, 2011 via web

    Check out This is the kind of program that can accomplish these goals.

  • by Ray kunle Fri Apr 8, 2011 via web

    Good day, these a nice and bright idea, please can we transfer this idea to Africa, i mean, can America and European companies in africa like Procter & Gamble's Ariel do the same?

  • by Sabita Dutta Sun Oct 7, 2012 via web

    Product uses help lot in messaging consumers or users.The new suggestive message of NOKIA phone is great when your phone is fully charged, it says 'save energy'. This strategy will help learning of consumers. A combined effort is necessary to bring 'green practices'. There's urgent need to bring consumer awareness through these suggestive uses as adopted by NOKIA

  • by teena Thu Sep 22, 2016 via web

    very much informative;

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