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Selling Nothing: Outreach to Reduce Consumption

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Selling Nothing: Outreach to Reduce Consumption

  1. 1. Nancy Roberts Senior Associate CRRA August 2021 Selling Nothing Outreach to Reduce Consumption
  2. 2. We’re constantly told to buy, buy, buy. For fun, for the economy, forever.
  3. 3. When we’re told not to buy, it looks weird…
  4. 4. How to “sell” not buying? Sometimes we focus on specifics.
  5. 5. Sometimes we focus on situations.
  6. 6. The Good Life is Simple Campaign
  7. 7. Click to Watch
  8. 8. Click to Watch
  9. 9. Click to Watch
  10. 10.  Save Money  Simpler life  Reduce stress  Help planet  Do the right thing? Why not Consume?
  11. 11. Survey of Californians 356 respondents July 2021 18-29 25% 30-44 22% 45-60 27% > 60 26% RESPONDENTS BY AGE
  12. 12. Most preferred activity? Which of the following activities sounds like the most fun to you? (% rated #1 most preferred) Hang out w friends Walk in nature Dinner at a nice restaurant Browsing for online gift for myself Visiting mall/ shopping center 29% 27% 24% 13% 7%
  13. 13. Are You Buying Less? In the last three months have you generally reduced the amount of new products and goods you buy? YES NO
  14. 14. Are You Buying Less? In the last three months have you generally reduced the amount of new products and goods you buy? YES NO 53% 47%
  15. 15. Why Are You Buying Less? What is the top reason why you have reduced the amount of new products and goods you bought? Save Money My needs changed Simplify my life Help the environ- ment It’s the right thing to do. 51% 15% 12% 10% 10%
  16. 16. “Pro-Consumption” It seems that the more expensive something is, the more I want it. Strongly Agree Somewhat Agree Don’t Agree or Disagree Somewhat Disagree Strongly Disagree 9% 17% 19% 23% 32%
  17. 17. “Pro-Consumption” When I buy things, it usually makes me feel good. Strongly Agree Somewhat Agree Don’t Agree or Disagree Somewhat Disagree Strongly Disagree 21% 41% 28% 7% 3%
  18. 18. “Pro-Consumption” The economy suffers when people stop spending their money. Strongly Agree Somewhat Agree Don’t Agree or Disagree Somewhat Disagree Strongly Disagree 32% 40% 19% 7% 2%
  19. 19. “Anti-Consumption” It would benefit future generations if people today would quit consuming so much. Strongly Agree Somewhat Agree Don’t Agree or Disagree Somewhat Disagree Strongly Disagree 34% 36% 19% 8% 3%
  20. 20. We should be more interested in saving the earth than growing the economy. Strongly Agree Somewhat Agree Don’t Agree or Disagree Somewhat Disagree Strongly Disagree 34% 28% 25% 9% 4% “Anti-Consumption”
  21. 21. The less I buy, the better I feel. Strongly Agree Somewhat Agree Don’t Agree or Disagree Somewhat Disagree Strongly Disagree 12% 27% 38% 17% 6% “Anti-Consumption”
  22. 22. Environmental Consciousness I make specific efforts to buy products made out of recycled material. Strongly Agree Somewhat Agree Don’t Agree or Disagree Somewhat Disagree Strongly Disagree 15% 36% 28% 16% 5%
  23. 23. Do my actions matter? My purchase choices do not make a difference for the economy or the environment overall. Strongly Agree Somewhat Agree Don’t Agree or Disagree Somewhat Disagree Strongly Disagree 8% 21% 28% 29% 14%
  24. 24. Environmentalist? One final question: Do you consider yourself an environmentalist? YES NO NOT SURE
  25. 25. Environmentalist? One final question: Do you consider yourself an environmentalist? YES NO NOT SURE 43% 39% 18%
  26. 26. Environmentalist? I'm more environmentalist than not but many environmentalists are too radical for me. While I do care for the environment, I do not find myself eagerly pursuing a more "green" way of living that is not easily done. “It's probably too late to save the world.” “F* environmentalists.”
  27. 27. Top take-aways 4
  28. 28. Not Buying Is aTough Sell.
  29. 29. Lots of reasons to consume less, but saving money is a primary benefit.
  30. 30. People are clear on the long-term social and environmental benefits of consuming less…
  31. 31. Even enviros admit that buying stuff makes them happy.
  32. 32. thank you! nancy@gigantic-idea.com

Editor's Notes

  • When we see an ad that does not encourage buying, it gets attendion and looks weird. This is a famous Patagonia ad from the 2012 Holiday season, Deep green value Patagonia customers were encouraged not to buy another jacket if they already had one. Subsequent ads encouraged them to repair rather than replace. It may have worked for Patagonia, but it’s a tough sell for “regular” products. – created a stir, very “on brand”

    Patagonia says: We used the line “Don’t Buy This Shirt” several years ago in a catalog essay, to strong response. It is our hope that this headline will prompt as many people as possible to read the full ad, then go to our website to take the Common Threads Initiative pledge, which asks people to buy only what they need, repair what breaks, and re-use or recycle everything else.

    I should mention – we don’t usually encourage messages that start with “Don’t” – this campaign was designed for shock value but does not represent a standard best practice for behavior change campaigns.
  • Many source reduction campaigns focus on reducing a particular item: straws, packaging, gas cars. This ad series for ZW Palo Alto focused on encouraging swapping purchases to lower-waste versions, in this case a shampoo bar instead of shampoo in a plastic bottle.
  • Sometimes source reduction focuses on a particular behavior, like gift giving at the holidays. This campaign and others like it focusing on giving gifts of experience – activities, or home made gifts…

    Santa Clara Co. Holiday video – we focused on the feeling of a fun experience not connected with a product.
  • though there are plenty of campaigns that focus on reducing use of specific items, Relatively few govt agencies promote simple living and less consuming,
    Here is one example from Germany: “The Good Life is Simple” with a series of examples of how reducing consumption increases well being. This one says why shop where everyone else shops, when you can look unique (by buying at thrift shops?

    https://www.nes-web.de/gutesleben/

    Saarbrucken is a town in Germany

  • On a recent effort for Zero Waste Marin, we made a couple of video aimed at schoolchildren; the first talks about recycling and what happens to stuff.
    The second video, called ZW Starts at Home, shows Dave the Recycling Fairy talking to our Marin student about buying less.

  • Get ‘em while they are young, right? We know that kids can be great emissaries when they ask their parents some of the tough questions

  • We decided to do a quick survey of Californians to explore attitudes to spending and how people might be positively motivated to reduce the amount of stuff they buy.
    There are some reasons people give for reducing buying stuff: including voluntary simplicity… and involuntary!


    We already know that human beings resist change, even positive, easy, live saving change (vaccinations, anyone?) This difficulty combines with another human tendency outlined in a recent book by Leidy Klotz focuses on the our tendenchy to solving problems by adding stuff rather than taking away. I recommend checking out the book called Subtract. So simplicity and embracing less is hard for humans.
  • So we decided to ask some questions of a bunch of CA humans we surveyed via SurveyMonkey Audience.
    Many of the questions are based on a recent survey done in New Zealand that looked at the connection between consumption and feelings of personal well being. Buying makes us feel good? In many cases, yes…
    Gender: 48% Male, 52% Female
    All from CA
  • The non-consuming activities came out as most rated #1 favorite.
    For all questions, not much difference in response by gender.
    It would be interesting to know how much these responses have changed due to COVID

    For 18-29, hanging out with friends was #1 for 33%; walk in nature was #1 for only 19%; 22% chose online buying of gift for self

  • A majority of respondents confirm they are consciously reducing the amount of stuff they have bought in the last 3 months….
    Some difference in respondents:
    For 18-29, 64% said yes;

    next
    For enviros, 58% said yes
  • Unsurprisingly in this time of economic uncertainty and pandemic effects, over half of those who bought less did so because they had less $ to spend! These answers could give us some ideas about how to position non-consumption. READ
    Note “right thing to do” – this is often a response people select for many different reasons – it can be a useful phrase for messaging.

    Younger people a bit different again: For 18-29, 42% said to save money, 23% said to help the environment – more than double the rest of those surveyed.
    We asked people at the end of the survey if they identified as environmentalists. For those who did and said they consumed less recently, 39% said it was to save money and 14% to save the planet.
    Other 2% were “other”
  • WE asked people how much they agreed with a series of statements, some geared toward positive views of consumption and some to more negative views.
    For Pro consumption statement:
    Are those 26% of people who agree just being more honest?
    55% disagree

    Crazy – 14% of self identified envrionmentalists strongly agreed, vs 9% of all respondents – guilt?
  • Here we see the power of purchasing as a contributor to personal well being.
    62% agree that buying stuff makes them feel good! Our work is cut out for us. Often this is where we default to encouraging buying “better” rather than buying less.

    The same percentage of self identified environmentalists strongly agreed – 21%
    So we can’t assume that people connect being environmentalist with not buying as much.
  • 72% understand that growth (i.e. consuming) is the engine of the economy and controls its health.
    Feeling empowered to impact the economy can clash with wanting to save the environment. If my buying creates jobs for my neighbor/community, I’m doing a good thing, right?
    Here is where the “what kind of buying” activity becomes important, and the value of the “shop local” message…
  • Do people understand long term negative impacts of over-consumption? Yes! 70% agree. That’s encouraging. But just because it would benefit future generations, doesn’t mean they will do it.
  • This is basically asking the same question as previous, but framed as saving the earth vs benefit of future generations. Similar response % age

  • 39% agree at least somewhat with this ”less stuff” phrased question. 23% disagree!
  • Threw this in to compare with the environmentalist question. Do people only associate recycling with being environmentalist? In other words, source reduction has some work to do to get identified as a “sustainable” behavior
  • READ results
    43% disagree, so think their actions do make a difference. Studies have shown that a sense of personal control makes people more likely to adopt green or other positive behaviors.
    Nearly 30% think their actions don’t make a difference. These folks may feel less obligation to do what is “right”
  • Asked at END of survey so as not to prejudice the prior responses.
  • 54% who said yes were women
  • Actual quotes from survey
  • Conclusions:
    Not Buying Is a Tough Sell
    Social/Macro reasons are understood as a good reason to consume less (doesn’t mean people do it)
  • Image –
    Rather than staying Don’t, how can we turn don’t buy to a positive?
  • IMAGE – empty wallet?
  • Image -Planet earth (saving the planet)
    But they don’t necessarily do anything about it. In other words, knowledge or vision is not enough. There has to be the wlll to change
  • READ
    So, to sum up: reducing consumption is that ultimate ZW behavior. It’s a tough sell that we can approach in different ways – by focusing on single items, or on a particular experience or by settling for less waste rather than not buying. People understand that consumption is bad for the future, but mostly seem unwilling or uncertain about changing. Change is HARD, but outreach messaging that is sensitive to barriers and benefits of buying less can help.

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