Green is a Habit

Still thinking about a New Year Resolution you would like to keep? Think green in a different light

There is an abundance of literature on green technologies and products, so that's not what I'm going to talk about here.

On the contrary, Im going to talk about things that may not sit well with how the entire ecosystem of industry and consumers operates in a fast-globalising but hot and crowded world. A world that doesn't seem to stop talking about the iPads, the Hondas, the Reeboks or whatever it is that makes people loosen their purse-strings.

Today we keep hearing of faster times to market, constant product upgrades and creation of new segments. Consumers, armed with all the new wealth being generated (especially in the developing economies), are going shopping with a vengeance. The glitzy shopping malls and a flood of goods from China and elsewhere are only too inviting to a growing crowd of cash-and-card-wielding Indians. The result: an ongoing, accelerating cycle of buy more, sell more, buy some more, and throw away a lot.

I remember growing up as a typical middle-class child in pre-liberalised India. There wasnt much to buy in the first place. We didnt have large disposable incomes to splurge. And we were happy with what we could get, use and, more importantly, reuse. Books and clothes were handed down from older children to the younger ones. Fridges, TVs and other contraptions used to last generations. And there were few unnecessary gewgaws around.

Today people buy all kinds of stuff at all kinds of prices for a bewildering variety of purposes. And quite often, for no purpose at all! (They grab it just on a whim or because it was on sale or because they couldnt say no to the salesperson.)

And what happens to the stuff that is bought? Its hardly used. Or goes phut all too soon. Or becomes out-of-fashion or obsolete. Or makes you feel bored with it because theres a spanking new one on the market. Ultimately, much of it is thrown away prematurely, remains underused or was never needed in the first place.

In our consumer-driven and growth-challenged times, the obvious argument in support of the buy-more culture is: What would otherwise happen to the industrys growth and consumers prosperity? What would happen to G-D-P? (I dont know; something happening to GDP is important but so is something happening to the environment. Perhaps more.)

In my opinion, green is more about habit than technology. The habit of producing goods that last longer. The habit of selling customers what they really need. The habit of optimally consuming things and not throwing them away or refusing to get them repaired and extend their life.

Green products alone may not be a game-changer for the environment; habits might.

Sanjay Gupta is Consulting Editor, IT Next & CTO Forum.

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