Dec 16, 2008

Art of GreenWashing - Dispelled by EPA & Obama

Cutting back is easy enough when energy and oil prices are sky-high. But as Obama said on a recent CBS News 60 Minutes program, our memories are short.
"This has been our pattern: We go from shock to trance. Oil prices go up, everybody goes into a flurry of activity, and then the prices go back down and suddenly we act like it's not important and we start filling up our SUVs again." As a result, Obama added, "We never make any progress."
"People buy on emotion, and they justify with the facts," says Maria Vargas, a director of the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program.
But what works? One effective tactic: fear of death. Social marketers give themselves high marks for getting people to stop smoking. But energy is different. As social marketer Merrill Shugoll of Shugoll Research explains, Big Oil is not the same as Big Tobacco. People need energy, she says -- they don't need cigarettes.
"Fear doesn't always work," Shugoll says. Clear, consistent information about where energy comes from and how its use affects the environment is what people need more of, she notes.
Instead, they say they need something more fundamental to motivate people. So efficiency boosters are turning to social marketers to find out how to change energy consumption habits. Social marketing is the use of public media to get people to make the right choices for society.
Social marketers say there are some things to avoid when you're trying to make people change their energy appetites. A big one is the idea of sacrifice. President Jimmy Carter tried that when he put on a sweater and told Americans to turn down the thermostat. It didn't work.