Peggy Liu – Sustainability Needs to Move From Gloom to Hope

 Peggy Liu wrote a blog post in Huffington Post called “Sustainability Needs to Move From Gloom to Hope”. Peggy highlights in this post the need for different vocabulary and aspirational angle when talking to consumers about sustainability. The post introduces the new UK Dream initiative launched March 7 in London, which is a spinoff of JUCCCE’s China Dream using the Dream-in-a-Box methodology. (www.ukdream.org, @TheUKDream)

peggy liu

Sustainability is dead. Or at least the entire language we use to talk about it to consumers should be buried.

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We need to remake the lexicon of sustainability if we are to move beyond preaching to the choir and gain serious mindshare of the less interested masses.

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Sustainability messaging must shift hard from a focus on abstract responsibility to one that helps people make subconscious choices that make them feel good about themselves. We need to speak to the heart, not to the head.

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Perhaps it is time for sustainability purists to embrace the ‘dark arts’ of advertising and learn how to entice and excite people into change.

Language matters. So why is the sustainability community still stuck on the images of reduction such as “zero,” “low carbon,” “energy efficiency” or “350”? Isn’t it time we started using more emotional vernacular like “sexy,” “unique” and “comfy”?

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In the China Dream vision of a better quality of life each focus area is phrased as an aspiration, but drives sustainable behavior. “Transit-oriented design” becomes “convenient, metro-centered living.” “Trigenerational developments” becomes “vibrant living.” “Pollution reduction” becomes “safe food and water.” Sterile academic wording is replaced with personal benefits. In fact, the word “sustainability” is entirely replaced with the phrase “harmonious happy 和悦.” A reframing of language is one key step in JUCCCE’s plans to activate new social norms in China.

A UK Dream spinoff incubated by Best Foot Forward (#TheUKDream) launched March 7 in London with a workshop on redefining the visual, spoken and written, symbolic language of sustainability towards more personal visions of sustainable aspiration.

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Fearful of not being taken seriously, policy wonks, scientists and academics in the narrowly contained sustainability community are not naturally wired to use the language of emotion. Curators like JUCCCE and Best Foot Forward are working to broaden conversations around sustainability by building connections between these experts and people in other fields, including advertising, movie production, marketing, behavioral psychology and religion. These storytellers can be instrumental in lending a personality to the sustainability movement.

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It’s time to spread a little less doom and put aside geek speak, and tell a shinier, brighter story that everyone wants to be a part of.

You can read the entire article here

Peggy Liu, Chairperson of JUCCCE, is internationally recognized for her expertise on China’s sustainability landscape and for fostering international collaboration with China. JUCCCE is a non-profit organization dedicated to accelerating the greening of China, because a green China is the key to a healthy world. JUCCCE is a leader in creating systemic change in sustainable cities, sustainable consumerism and smart grid, and most noted for its multi-sector convening power. Peggy has a passion for making the world a better place.

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