January 28, 2012

Additional nugget on older generations as eco-warriors

Filed under: Demographics,Sustainability — by xrematon @ 9:42 pm
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I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how it seems that old folk are naturally ‘green folk’. My thought were based on personal experience and observation so I was gratified to come across an article in The Economist which supports this idea. The article was about a new paper which showed that carbon footprints vary by age.

As one might expect, emissions rise as people get older, reflecting the fact consumption increases, for example, someone gets a car, they buy more clothes, they start a family, they get a bigger house, they get another car and so on. However, the analysis showed that reductions start to appear when people are in their mid-60s – giving us a reason to be positive (for once) about the implications of an ageing population.

A final observation – the research was based on looking at the lifestyle of the average American. I expect the angle of the line in the graph might look a little different for consumers from the other side of the Atlantic.

January 18, 2012

Time management and the modern consumer

Filed under: Coaching,Consumer Trends — by xrematon @ 10:59 pm
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January  – the moment when we are supposed to think about the wonderful new habits we will start and, more importantly, keep. Making the most of our time is a goal which many think about. It can appear in a whole variety of different permutations:  better work-life balance, more quality time with family and friends, and creating more ‘me-time’ (the latter is a real coaching favourite).

Whatever our ambition, I was wondering how this might translate into one’s role as a consumer – what does good time management in a consumer look like? One area of consumer activity that is top of mind based on current personal experiences is holidays. When is it best to engage with this?

With the rise of the idea that we have all the offers at our fingertips and can hunt out the best deals, the ‘last minute is best’ school of thought might appear to hold sway. However, when you are constrained to travelling during the school holidays, such a way of thinking is a dangerous mirage. Everything is booked up and only the most expensive or undesirable options are left. On a whim, over Xmas, we decided it would be fun to go South Africa at Easter – fine if we were ready to fork out thousands on luxury lodges or else stay in local Disneyland-wannabe resorts.

Our alternative plan is camping in the UK, which is a simpler proposition in some senses, but not in others. Camping, as I have discovered, requires lots and lots of consumer activity. Whilst getting distracted researching the arcane items I might now require, I received some advice which made me think that perhaps you can actually get away with leaving it last minute.

Campers, being of the ‘advance planning is best’ school tend to buy everything nice and early. Many suppliers then put the remaining stock on sale in July to clear warehouses for next season’s equipment. Bingo – I should be able to get a bargain just when I need it. Fingers crossed.

PS – I have already got the tent – see proof below.

January 10, 2012

Older generations – the unsuspecting eco-warriors

Filed under: Demographics,Sustainability — by xrematon @ 11:24 am
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We live in a world where resources are scarce, and we cannot keep stealing [them] from our children and grandchildren.

Thus speaks Paul Polman, the current Unilever CEO. He is thinking about his responsibilities as the man in charge of a huge multinational company with the potential to have massive direct and indirect environmental impacts. As he observes,

In our own factories, we’re responsible for around three million tonnes of CO2. But if we add in suppliers and consumers, it’s around 300 million.

However, I would like to take the perspective of the ‘truffle hunter’ as oppose to thinking big and wide. Over the holidays, I was in conversation with an acquaintance who was despairing of the behaviour of a mutual friend – Des. Des is a retired gentleman, in his seventies, who in common with a number of his generation, has accumulated a fair amount of property assets over his lifetime, including a small holiday flat in the southern France. However, Des lives a distinctingly parsimonious life which, unwittingly, is likely to have a very low carbon footprint.

What are the details? Well, he doesn’t really heat his house much as he goes out for a walk and to the cafe in the morning and then visits a friend in the afternoon and early evening. He doesn’t put hot water heating on as he goes to the swimming pool for both exercise and to make use of the showers. He buys only second hand (and thus recycled) clothing. He doesn’t really eat much meat, often the biggest environmental blackspot when it comes to food, or if he does, it tends to be in cheap pies, where the actual meat content is generally pretty low and the animals may have been more intensively but also efficiently reared. And what about the holiday flat in France? He gets there by train of course!

I don’t think Des is a rare occurence. How he lives his life reminds me of my uncle – who similarly does not travel, eats tiny quantities of meat and is an extremely modest consumer of material goods. His particular forte is living in permanent semi-darkness as he does not like to waste electricity on lights. I admit this is rather unnecessary given the rise of energy efficient lightbulbs!

I am not proposing that we all follow this lifestyle – it would be pretty miserable – but it is useful counterpoint to the Abel and Cole veg boxes, free-range chickens, water pebbles in your shower, hybrid vehicles, going on holiday to African villages powered by solar panels and so forth.

Go for it Des!

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