Sunday, December 31, 2006

Review of 2006

If you've come here to avoid all those lazy 'review of the year' articles in the dead tree press then you've come to the wrong place!

The year ended with the market research group Mintel publishing a report saying: "2006 has proved to be a tipping point for the eco-warrior, as environmental issues and greener lifestyles have gone mainstream," So what has triggered this sea change?

Undoubtably the big daddy of all things environmental has been Al Gore and his film/powerpoint presentation An Inconvenient Truth. On the domestic political front, the rise of David Cameron and his husky hugging antics triggered an environmental arms race with the Government releasing the Stern report, and the Lib Dems proposing a significant green tax switch. The downside of all this interest was the media's insistence on wheeling out all the discredited climate change deniers to give the story 'balance'.

We also got a tangible symbol of climate change this year - the Polar Bear. The images in the BBC's 'Planet Earth' of an exhausted polar bear curling up to die of hunger and exhaustion brought on by a lack of ice brought the consequences of climate change home to many. The year ended with the US Government designating it an endangered species, although it remains unclear whether this signifies a shift in climate change policy from the world's biggest polluter.

Hype of the year goes to the B&Q domestic windturbine. The company boasted of massive sales, but there is lack of clarity over how many have been installed, with possibly apocryphal horror stories of chimneys and gable ends being ripped off. The cynics who bemoaned that 'they could only power a hairdryer' just showed off their ignorance of energy - a hairdryer actually takes quite a lot of juice.

In the media, Green went mainstream. While it is not surprising that the Times, Guardian and Independent all started dispensing eco-/ethical advice, the surprise was The Sun's semi-conversion. The red top was happy to give out eco-tips (illustrated most creatively with bare flesh), but baulked at accepting eco-taxes. The sudden plethora of books on eco-living also demonstrated a massive interest, although the quality of some left something to be desired.

Another trend this year (which I must admit I haven't blogged before) is the take over of eco-businesses by larger organisations. L'Oreal took on Body Shop, Green & Blacks got swallowed by Cadburys and Howies sold up to Timberland. Whether this is a sign of a growth market, or simple bandwagon hopping remains to be seen.

So in summary, quite a year - the most exciting from a green point of view since the 1992 Earth Summit, IMHO.

My predictions for 2007 are that some of these bubbles will burst (with some media backlash) but that overall green will become more and more mainstream. The political agenda will continue to take a green hue, but without the Green Party benefitting. Micro-renewables will grow, but mainly solar hot water. Recycling will rise as councils feel the force of the Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme. I suspect, however, there will be no consensus on how to tackle air travel emissions.

That just leaves me to wish you a very Happy New Year!


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