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Beyond al gore- selling sustainability

February 26, 2007

Al Gore may have won an Oscar for his documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”, but he’s preaching to the already converted, the future of life on planet earth could be dependent on America’s middle class embracing a sustainable lifestyle.

To date, middle class aspiration has been driven and guided by an American Dream that’s been with us for over 50 years; a big home, a big car, 2.4 kids and a successful career. One by one, each of the individual components is becoming both harder to achieve and harder for the planet to sustain.

America’s middle class is, according to numerous sources, under significant financial pressure and being squeezed by increasing cost burdens that include rising health insurance premiums, even Congress has debated the issue.

If the ultimate consumerist dream is no longer feasible, attainable or sustainable- could there be an alternative aspiration?

Could sustainable consumption offer an alternative American Dream?

To date, sustainable lifestyle has been embraced those who already have most of their material needs already taken care of; they have achieved the American Dream and are looking for something else, an inner-directed alternative.

The problem is this group is relatively small.

What’s it going to take for a broader sway of the US population to embrace sustainable living?

It’s going to take the actions of every single consumer-focused corporation in the United States.

Firstly, they are going to have to start cleaning up their own business, reducing their energy consumption and finding more environmentally efficient ways to produce products.

This is an idea that’s starting to gain traction inside corporate America, not because of the emergence of a new feel good attitude, but because of the cost savings it generates.

So once companies have made their own businesses more efficient, what happens next?

Consumers need to be taught how to do the same and that’s going to be a huge challenge.

Many of these companies are used to telling people to super-size up their lives, they are now going to have change tact, to try and sell the message to buy smaller, to buy more energy-efficient and a message that will be very challenging for companies to say, that less is better.

If they can face up to the challenge and get the message right, it might just lead to the emergence of a new American Dream.

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