I was interested, but not surprised, to read that sales of energy efficient products rose by 12% last year. It looks like even the recession hasn’t halted the green revolution. So, has the tough economic market changed consumers’ shopping habits for the better?
There are two schools of thought: one is that consumers are now placing sustainability characteristics and environmental impact at the top of their list during the buying decision, the other is that green appliances have endured because consumers realise that products that are kinder to the earth’s resources are also easier on their pockets.
As a realist I would probably support the latter. That’s not to say that I don’t believe going green is creeping up the social agenda, because our own research has shown me it has. It’s simply that I believe that, in a recession, saving money will always take precedence above saving the earth.
Either way, these latest figures are good news for the environment, retailers and manufacturers. What we need to ensure now is that we don’t let ‘greenwashing’ (companies intentionally misrepresenting their products as environmentally friendly when, in fact, they aren’t) undo the reality of consumers waking up to the fact that going green saves them money.
In our rush to solve the numerous impending environmental crises we’ve been told about, some of the concepts unveiled by manufacturers, scientists and inventors have turned out to be impossible, dangerous or just plain ridiculous. Others have just been guilty of a touch of hypocrisy… remember the Shell advert that showed an oil refinery emitting flowers rather than smoke?
To continue to move the energy-efficient appliance market forward we need to ensure we stay grounded, offering genuine eco-friendly benefits to environment-conscious consumers and real monetary savings for those driven by price. In the run up to an election all parties will be setting out their manifestos on what else we should be doing to save the planet but we need to make sure it has some grounding in reality.
The Government has already set out plans to make every home in the UK carbon neutral by 2050 and the scheme has been greeted with a great deal of scepticism. What is carbon neutral? Is it a realistic goal for the normal family?
We [GDHA] decided there was only one way to find out, so we recently partnered with Scottish and Southern Energy on a research project looking at the feasibility of zero carbon homes. Belling is supplying its energy efficient PBI60 induction hobs for a development of 10 zero carbon homes, which will be monitored to investigate the suitability of zero carbon living for today’s consumers and the likelihood that the Government’s objectives for 2050 can be met.
The development has been designed by architects to achieve the highest specification for sustainable building – known as Code Level 6 in the Code for Sustainable Homes. Upon completion, the properties will be rented out to SSE employees and to staff of Slough Borough Council who will live in the development with their families for 24 months. During this period, residents will be asked to give their views on the homes and products, so we will get a valuable insight direct from consumers who have interacted with our appliances. Most importantly, it will give all those involved access to real data and anecdotal evidence about whether zero carbon is really the future. So watch this space....