Suggestions for green living

(Source: The Straits Times, February 10, 2012)

This was a Straits Times article that listed seven suggestions for green living. I will be highlighting three of the listed suggestions.

First – Educate appliance retailers to recommend energy-efficient equipment to their customers. Since most of the people get their appliance from electrical stores, what could be a better way to encourage consumers to purchase energy efficient equipments than the retailers themselves? Retailers are in a good position to influence consumers’ decision since they are usually customers’ first point of contact. Furthermore, consumers are more likely to deem them as experts in the appliance. As such their persuasion could be more effective than similar persuasion by conservationist.

There could be two challenges to this proposed suggestion. One – People may be driven to buy certain appliance for the prestige that is associated with that appliance. This group of people are not as easily swayed by retailers’ environmental persuasion, and may tend to perceive environmentalism or conservation as lower status. Two – Retailers themselves may not be driven to promote such appliance as it has not direct monetary benefit to them. After all, most of these retailers are business-driven. What the government possibly could do is to work out a commission system. For example, for every energy efficient good sold, the retailer could receive a commission from the government. However, this may also cost the government a lot of money which may not be sustainable in the long run.

Second – Encouraging Singaporeans to use more public transport by making a more pleasant commute. Indeed, transportation is a major contributor of the air pollution in Singapore due to the ever increasing vehicles.

However, the problem lies in the suggestion’s implicit assumption that comfortability issue is the the reason people choose not to take public transport. However this is not entirely true because there could be some other more important reasons people drive, like convenience. As much as one understands that taking a bus leads to lesser carbon footprint, people generally are still innately egocentric as mentioned by Skinner. As such, between convenience and lesser carbon footprint, I reckon most will choose the former. Furthermore in today’s society, one’s identity is also largely determined by one’s material possession. People may drive a fancy car more than the reason of convenience only. People may drive a Porsche simply so that they can display their “prestige” identity.

Third – Incorporating environmental issues into school curriculum. This suggestion may work as convincing young impressionable students about the importance of conservation is probably much easier than convincing hard-wired adults. Besides, if these environmental courses are incorporated into the schools, parents and students are more likely to take a more serious approach towards environmental issues. After all, whatever that is taught in school must be important right?