UN environment agency launches plan to make sustainable consumption 'cool'

4 February 2003

Since it has become increasingly clear that target audiences are turned off by the judgmental tone of traditional messages about the environment, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) has joined with social scientists in a new bid to make saving the planet "cool."

"People are simply not listening, so we need to make sustainable lifestyles fashionable and 'cool,' as the young people might say," UNEP Executive-Director Klaus Toepfer told environmental ministers today in Nairobi, where sustainable consumption patterns, and how governments, industry and the public can play their role in delivering these, are among the key issues being discussed at the agency's weeklong Governing Council meeting.

According to experts, the traditional messages from governments and green groups urging the public to adopt environmentally friendly lifestyles and purchasing habitats need to be overhauled. There is concern that many of these messages are too "guilt-laden." In a pioneering move UNEP will enlist psychologists and behaviourists to help market "cool" life-styles as a way of selling clean and green products.

Stressing that making people feel guilty about their lifestyles and purchasing habits is achieving only limited success, Mr. Toepfer said, "We need to look again at how we enlist the public to reduce pollution and live in ways that cause minimal environmental damage." He added, "We also need to make it clear that there are real, personal, benefits to living in harmony with the planet."

 

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