Many people in business are secretly hoping the recession will kill off the growing popularity of green issues. Some others are hoping not so secretly, among them the delightful (not) Michael O’Leary of Irish budget airline RyanAir, who had this to say in February last year:
In many ways we would welcome a chill or something even colder. We would welcome a good, deep, bloody recession in this country for 12 to 18 months. It would be bloody good for the industry. It would help see off the environmental nonsense that has become so popular among the chattering classes.
In reality though, environmental issues are not going to go away, and the recession is as much an opportunity for environmentalists as a threat.
Brands that indulged in greenwash or sold a green veneer as a lifestyle gimmick are bound to suffer in these straitened economic times. I think (hope) that discriminating customers with money to spend will continue to seek out truly artisanal eco-friendly products. It’s the brands clambered on the bandwagon in an exploitative, non-genuine fashion that will suffer. I must admit I laughed at AA Gill’s scathing review of Daylesford Organic in London. On the face of things it sounds like a case in point, though I’ve never shopped or eaten there, so I reserve my judgment.
Right now it’s the value-for-money proposition that chimes with the general public. That’s probably why Rachel’s, an organic dairy brand in the UK, recently dropped the word “organic” from its brand name. Many customers regard organic produce as a luxury that they can’t currently afford. Rachel’s is still certified organic – it’s just no longer called Rachel’s Organic on its packaging.
In the battle for hearts and minds, environmentalists can also focus on selling a value-for-money proposition. Even in these tough financial times, people do still care about the environment and are paying attention to green issues. They are just looking for a way to do it without blowing the family budget. The good news is that frugality goes hand in hand with green living.
Environmentalism at its heart is not just about what you buy, though that’s important, but fundamentally about buying less. You don’t really need that new iPhone – and if you are tempted, you might want to check out this amazing photo gallery on Treehugger showing the shocking truth about where the raw materials came from.
It’s not all about deprivation, though. EcoSalon has loads of great ideas for how to save pennies and the planet without compromising on style.
Some simple ideas that will save you money and help the planet include:
Cutting down on your electricity and natural gas consumption. Turn off lights, switch appliances off at the wall, turn the central heating off completely for summer. Simple but effective.
Drive less and instead catch public transport, cycle or walk.
Use the library or book exchange websites rather than buying books.
Barter more generally, not just for books.
Can’t afford to go to the farmers’ market or buy organic brands in the supermarket? Don’t give up on organic food but instead sign up for a vegetable box scheme – you’ll get fresh, seasonal food at great prices. It’s actually often cheaper than the conventional produce in the supermarket. Or grow your own – whatever your space.
Reduce meat consumption and cook more vegetarian food – EcoSalon posts great vegetarian recipes if you need inspiration.
Practise good home economics and use up food. Remember that multi-buy deals in the supermarket are not such a great deal if you have to use it all up by the next day.
Mend your clothes or have a clothes swap. And skimp on dry cleaning.
Holiday close to home or take the train.
And, here are even more ideas. I’d love to hear from you so please share your best ideas for frugal green living in the comments.
Meanwhile, you might take a certain schadenfreude from knowing that RyanAir plummeted into the red after failing to hedge effectively on fuel prices last year. O’Leary’s latest plan to make money is to charge customers to use the toilet on board the aeroplane.