This is the fourth of Havas PR’s “11 Trends for 2016.”
For a while, it looked as if environmental awareness was winning out. In the tight times after the 2007-08 financial crisis, previously soaring sales of gas-guzzling vehicles faltered and dipped. Celebrities started touting their green creds by driving fuel-efficient hybrid cars, and General Motors Co. pulled the plug on its massive Hummer SUV. But that apparent shift in conscience coincided with high oil prices and distressed household budgets. Now that oil prices have fallen off a cliff, gasoline is more affordable and sales of SUVs are climbing, accounting for 36 percent of U.S. auto industry volume in mid-2015. Sales of secondhand Hummers are at an 11-year high. So much for consumers’ environmental concern.
Encouraged by the evidence of wild and weird weather, the majority of Americans have come around to thinking that climate change is happening. But they’re much less clear about how worried they should be and how much human activity is a factor, if at all. And with no shortage of prominent politicians keen to describe climate change concern as a hoax or even a conspiracy, why should ordinary people go the hard route of cutting back, giving things up and trying to make a difference with the three R’s: reduce, reuse and recycle?
Whatever the outcome of the big COP21 climate change summit in Paris, the deciding factor for ordinary people won’t be the conscientious policies and commitments of leaders; it will be cool products they can buy. The stage has been set by consumer technology in familiar areas such as computing and communications. We’ve become used to the media getting fired up by the sort of presentations that Apple has perfected. Tech visionary Elon Musk set the scene for renewables chic with his brilliantly choreographed presentation showing how cool design, smart big-picture thinking and astute branding can transform mundane domestic electrical storage into the high-concept Tesla Powerwall home battery.
New areas of tech lust will open up for consumer-oriented renewable technologies that inspire must-have responses. The sort of geeks who now tote fitness wearables and compare step totals will be trying out personal power-generation technologies and vying to top the PGWPD (personally generated watts per day) tables.