Trendwatching.com is an independent trendspotting firm, which relies on a global network of 8,000 spotters across 70-plus countries to scan the globe for the most promising consumer trends, insights and related hands-on business ideas. In its recent report, Eco-iconic, Trendwatching finds that the branding of eco-goods and services is about to enter a new phase: Eco-iconic brands are increasingly helping owners/users attract peer recognition globally.
And while eco-embedded products may make the first wave of eco-iconic products and services redundant, expect new eco-booster products to offer eco-iconic a new lease on life. Edited excerpts:
Eco-awareness has been embraced not just by treehuggers and celebrities, but by sizeable parts of the global middle classes, too. When applying this ever-wider embrace to green products and services, the shift looks somewhat like this: We’ve gone from eco-ugly (ugly, over-priced, low-performance, unsavoury yet eco-friendly versions of the ‘real thing’) to eco-chic (eco-friendly stuff that actually looks as nice and cool as the less sustainable originals) to now eco-iconic: eco-friendly goods and services sporting bold, iconic markers and design, helping their eco-conscious owners show off their eco-credentials to their peers.
At the heart of eco-iconic is a status shift (isn’t there always?): Many consumers are eager to flaunt their green behaviour and possessions because there are now millions of other consumers who are actually impressed by green lifestyles.
From eco-friendly household cleaning products to shoes made out of environmentally preferred material, eco-iconic brands are helping owners and users attract peer recognition globally (Photo by: trendwatching.com)
Eco-iconic is not about all green products, it’s about those products that through their distinct appearance or stories actually show that they’re green, or at least invoke some curiosity from onlookers, and thus help their owners/users attract recognition from their peers.
Now, eco-iconic works both in the world of traditional status symbols (build a green brand/product, advertise the hell out of it and make it recognizable by the masses, which in turn makes it easy for buyers to get respect from strangers) and as part of the status stories phenomenon, which involves providing buyers of little- known/niche eco-brands with conversation starters and story details to get a status fix from their peers.
Here’s how brands from around the world are already making the most of eco-iconic:
•New-Zealand-based Beauty Engineered Forever produces a range of environmentally friendly household cleaning products from natural ingredients and essential oils that are not harmful to the environment and safe for consumers. The packaging has been designed to connect with the customer on a personal level with playful and cheeky pick-up lines, such as “I’ll do your dirty work” and “I’ll make it all white.”
•And no, we didn’t forget about Method, which was started in 1999 and whose eco-cleaning products line now extends to laundry, speciality surfaces, dish, hand and body wash and all-purpose cleaners. Method’s very recognizable design makes it the leader in eco-iconic cleaning.
•Not so iconic: Clorox Green Works is at least 99% natural and made from ingredients derived from coconuts and lemon oil, and the products are formulated to be biodegradable, non-allergenic, packaged in recyclabe bottles and not tested on animals. However, the design is far from different, and worse, the Clorox name will forever be associated with chlorine bleach.
•Now, chances are that when asked to name iconic products, green or not, cars will come to mind first, with (for now) Toyota’s Prius taking the eco-iconic prize. As The New York Times put it: “Why are Prius sales surging when other hybrids are slumping? Because buyers want everyone to know they are driving a hybrid.”
•Honda’s FCX Clarity is a fuel-cell vehicle that runs on electricity powered by hydrogen, and emits only water vapour and heat.
Honda is also developing a home energy station for refuelling the FCX Clarity, which it has been testing in Torrance, California, since 2003. A modest roll-out in the US is scheduled for this summer, with Japan following in the fall.
Honda is supposedly also working on a dedicated “global hybrid” family car (meaning that like the Toyota Prius, there won’t be a nonhybrid version) which is scheduled for launch in 2009.
•First unveiled as a prototype in July 2006, Tesla Motors began regular production of its electric sports car, the Tesla Roadster, in March 2008.
•For more electrical sports cars and sedans in the making: Check out 2008 Electrum Spyder and the Venturi Fétish. And sedan-wise, let’s not forget the 2008 Dodge Zeo (zero emission operation) concept car, the Chevrolet Volt, the Loremo… Oh well, you get the point.
But eco-iconic isn’t restricted to flashy or big: The market is witnessing an “innovation overload” in smaller, funky looking electric, hybrid, trybid and what have you cars. In a city near you (soon):
•Designed in California and manufactured in India, Goin-Green’s G-Wiz electric cars are a hit in London, where the company has sold over 1,000 units, making London the electric car capital of the world.
•The Nissan Pivo is a concept car by Nissan and is powered by a lithium-ion battery. The car is essentially a 360-degree rotating cabin on a chassis of four wheels, and hence eliminates the need for reversing and makes parking easier.
The car’s futuristic design incorporates large doors for easy access to the cabin and large windscreens and windows for high visibility. (Source: Wikipedia.)
Next? Chinese car makers going eco-friendly or at least ecofriendlier.
P.S. Not so eco-iconic: Volkswagen’s diesel-electric hybrid version of its Golf hatchback. Whatever you do, don’t make it look like the old, polluting version of what you’ve been doing. This may have made sense a few years ago, when hybrid meant lower performance and less coolness, but those days are gone. But these days, owners of a “hidden” hybrid simply miss out on a big chunk of “status”. Oh wait... Volkswagen just canceled it...
•And let’s not forget eco two-wheelers: Check out Suzuki and Intelligent Energy’s collaboration, which resulted in the Suzuki Crosscage, a prototype hydrogen-fuelled concept motorcycle.
Yes, we know, there are plenty of other vehicles and modes of transport going green and iconic, too. Three more examples, just for the fun of it:
•The SunRay golf cart recharges its own batteries in the sun through solar panels mounted on the roof.
•Australian Solar Sailor has developed a “solar wing” for ferries or yachts, which harvests both sun and wind energy. Like a large sail, the (very iconic) solar wing can be manipulated into different rotating positions, as well as folding flat in high winds.
•Here’s one of our favorites from the pedal sector: French La Petite Reine, which maintains a fleet of about 60 Cargocycles for hire by businesses that need to make small to medium-sized urban deliveries over a distance of up to 30km. Weighing only 80kg (as opposed to 1,000kg or more for most delivery vans), each Cargocycle can transport about 180kg of merchandise in its 1,400-litre cargo space, with the help of an electric assist motor.
Bags and shoes
Enough automotive. What could be more visible than the stuff consumers wear or carry, day in, day out:
•Ecoist’s bags are made from misprinted or discontinued snack bags, pull tabs and candy wrappers. Material that would otherwise end up in landfills is folded into straps and woven into bags and clutches by Mexican artisans and Brazilian women’s cooperatives.
•Adidas Originals’ eco collection—the Grün Collection—offers a range of products, including classic silhouettes like the Forum basketball sneaker and the ZX 500 runner, all made from recycled and natural materials. More importantly, the earth tones and fabrics get the message across to other eco-conscious sneaker freaks.
•In February Nike introduced its Trash Talk shoes. From the sole to the shoelaces, this shoe is produced not only from “environmentally preferred” materials but also recycled waste, with much of the latter coming from Nike’s own production facilities—scraps that would otherwise have been discarded. It’s a great idea, but the shoes don’t exactly tout their eco-credentials, looking too much like Nike’s other shoes. Same for Nike’s eco-friendly Considered line. Pity.
Clean DIY power
Not only is consumer-generated solar and wind power “hot”, it can also be a very visible, iconic activity. Hey, personal windmills or solar panels are the new green accessory:
•First, more bags: Made of Bavarian leather, Noon Solar’s Corland Solar Powered Bag incorporates a flexible solar panel into the body of each bag, which allows for charging a cellphone or iPod. Collecting energy with the bag is simple. The bag can be placed in a window with the panel facing towards the sun at work, home, at a café, or while walking/biking around town.
Even on cloudy or rainy days, energy is collected through the UV light of the sun. The battery pack has a green indicator that lights up when it’s charging. Check out these other solar bag makers, too: Reware, Eclipse, Picard and Voltaic.
•Italian design house Zegna created the ZegnaSport Solar Jacket with built-in solar cells in its collar to charge the wearer’s iPod and mobile phone. The electricity is transferred via conducting textile cables to a small Li-ion storage battery, or directly to a device.
•HYmini is a hand-held universal power charger that uses wind and solar energy to top up most gadgets, and it comes with miniSOLAR panels and extra batteries to store even more power. Twenty minutes of stiff breeze will provide 30 minutes of iPod time. The HYmini can be attached to bike handlebars or car windows. The basic HYmini device costs $49.99. Also check out competing Solio, whose hand charger was voted best of adventure gear by National Geographic.
•Sometime this year, Citizenre REnU will allow consumers to rent a solar energy system (the REnU) for 1, 5 or 25 years, instead of having to make significant investments by buying one, and having to deal with maintenance. At the end of each month, Citizenre will send a bill showing how much electricity the REnU system has generated that month.
Commercial real estate
Green trophy buildings are all the rage. Consider the exhibitionist glee with which these buildings expose their vast green roofs, towering windmills and glimmering acres of solar panels.
(L to R ) Lighthouse in Dubai, London’s Castle House and Pearl River Tower in China (Photo by: trendwatching.com)
•The Bahrain World Trade Center is the world’s first commercial building to incorporate large-scale wind turbines into its initial design. It has three massive wind turbines that measure 29m in diameter and are supported on bridges between the BWTC’s two 240m-high towers. The turbines generate approximately 11–15% of the BWTC’s total energy needs.
•The Castle House, a 42-storey apartment tower under construction at Elephant and Castle in London, will feature a roof with an array of integrated wind turbines, each nine meters in diameter.
•More Dubai: The 370m, 92-floor Wave Tower, designed by the Spanish architectural group A-cero, will be located right on the water.
The “seascraper” is designed to be a green building: Interior gardens or “sky gardens” will be located in common zones, improving the air quality and working as natural temperature regulators.
The building’s silk-screened glass skin will assist with controlling heat from the sun. Wave Tower will also contain a water purification plant, which will desalinate and purify the surrounding sea water to be used as drinking water and for landscape maintenance and sewage. (Source: MetaEfficient.)
•The Solstice on the Park, a 26-storey residential tower in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighbourhood, to be completed in September 2010, is literally shaped by solar access. Its surface is designed to precisely the optimum angle for 41.5 degrees north (Chicago), which allows the sun to enter the apartments during winter for passive solar warming and keeps it out during the summer to reduce air-conditioning usage.
The saw-tooth design creates balconies that block direct midday sun, decreasing the need for power-hungry air conditioning.
In winter, when the sun is lower, rays pass through the windows to warm the interior.
•The agro-housing concept by Israeli Knafo Klimor Architects is a combination of housing and urban agriculture.
The building is composed of two parts: an apartment tower and a vertical greenhouse.
The greenhouse is a multi-level structure for cultivating crops such as vegetables, fruits, flowers and spices.
It’s equipped with a drip-irrigation system, heating system and natural ventilation.
Knafo Klimor Architects developed this concept with concern for predictions that 50% of China’s citizens will eventually live in its cities, a trend mirrored in many developing countries in the world.
The full text of the report, Eco-iconic, can be viewed at www.trendwatching.com