Words that sell

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					“ You don’t use those words,
  though, do you? You see
  them on packages”
	 Focus	group	participant,		 	
	 Spring	2007

                                 that sell
                                 How the public talks
                                 about sustainability
Contents                                                    Introduction

01 Introduction
                                              Contents      Words matter. They matter a great deal. Words bring ideas alive, make
                                                            new concepts familiar, and can change the way we see the world.
02 What we learned
                                                            Marketers, journalists and those working in the media are acutely aware of
04 How to use this guide:                                   the importance of words. There is a whole industry dedicated to perfecting
Green Words                                                 copy. A PR company can spend days (or weeks, if the client is important
Amber Words                                                 enough) pondering a single line of text. In some cases, millions of pounds
Red Words                                                   are spent on market testing one word.

05 Second Chance Waste and Smart Appliances                 Yet those promoting sustainable development work with an inherited
ZERO WASTE                                                  terminology cobbled together from science, economics and decades of policy
LESS IS MORE                                                making, pressure group campaigning and academic debate. Most people
SECOND CHANCE RUBBISH                                       working in a sustainable development discipline know that their lexicon
SMART versus GREEDY                                         is often invisible to the majority of the public, and at worst alienating and
WATTAGE WASTAGE and CUT THE BUZZ                            off-putting to many non specialists.
                                                            Understanding how the public responds to sustainability terminology isn’t
09 Spurting and Savvy Driving                               simply a test of basic understanding of the words. Experts are careful to
FLIGHT ADDICT and HABITUAL FLYER                            balance the ‘denotative’ meaning of words (the dictionary definition) with
SAVVY DRIVING                                               the ‘connotative’ associations, feelings and images a word conjures for the
NON-ESSENTIAL FLYING                                        people who hear or use it.
SPURTING                                                    This short study by Futerra is designed to test the connotative meanings
THE MPG CHALLENGE (mpg = miles per gallon)                  of both established and some newly coined sustainability terminology.
STRESS-FREE MOTORING                                        We’ve picked up terms from government reports, NGO posters and business
ECO-SAFE DRIVING                                            websites, and we’ve even made up a few original ones.

14 Sparks That Last                                         The use of common words connects members of a community into a network
IN-HOUSE GENERATION                                         with formidable collective powers. If sustainability is to become a persuasive
INDEPENDENT POWER                                           vision, it needs a persuasive language.
SPARKS THAT LAST                                            We hope this report is a first step in developing that language.

18 One Planet What?

23 Overview: the findings

                                                         01 Futerra	Words that sell
What we learned

Futerra commissioned focus group testing of the terminology used                  Words empathise and personify
every day in the sustainable development community. Our team also
                                                                                  Too often, sustainability terms are used for their denotative/dictionary
coined some new sustainability words and phrases to see how they
                                                                                  meaning but ignore their connotative associations. Terms that played on
would be received by the public.
                                                                                  connotative meanings, for example by ‘personifying’ waste and implying
While the responses to the specific terms themselves are fascinating,             it deserves a ‘second chance’ just as a person does, tested extremely well.
some clear conclusions emerged that can be applied across the whole               Response to empathic and emotive words was enthusiastic.
sustainability lexicon;
                                                                                  Smart and savvy rather than efficient
Common sense matters                                                              People in our focus groups were quick to acknowledge various permutations
The most popular and effective terms we tested were familiar to people and        of a win-win scenario. For example, ‘savvy driving’ can save money, save time,
sounded like ‘common sense’. Moral, obviously political or accusatory terms       increase quality time with children and help the environment. This term allows
were strongly reacted against, but terms that ‘do exactly what it says on the     people to associate themselves with the behaviour: smart people have savvy
tin’ were far more effective.                                                     products. The term is preloaded to be positive and emotionally uplifting rather
                                                                                  than terms such as ‘efficient’ that seemed good…but dull.

Humour doesn’t hurt
                                                                                  Who wants to be an ‘environmentalist’?
A few terms were seen to offer funny or tongue in cheek observations. These
were often repeated by the participants, and people seemed overjoyed to           The hardest job was searching for positive, high-status sustainability terms
be using an environmental terminology that wasn’t ‘aggressive’ or ‘fanatical’.    that the public could use to label themselves. No-one in our groups referred
The great British sense of irony and humour is an excellent starting point for    to themselves an ‘environmentalist’, or even a ‘recycler’. The psychological
developing terminology. The outright enthusiasm for these terms promise a         research into ‘symbolic self-completion’ teaches us how crucial it is to have
real desire for a green language that is socially acceptable and fun.             a defining term to support ongoing action. This is currently missing from
                                                                                  sustainability terminology: we want to be a something… and no ‘something’
                                                                                  is forthcoming.
Guilt shuts us down
‘Psychological reactance’ is where people feel their freedoms are threatened      Action speak louder than words
and they therefore begin to defend them aggressively. This strong and
sometimes outright angry response was generated by many of the terms              True, but people need a terminology that they are familiar with to give context
we tested. This is deeply worrying for public acceptance of sustainability.       to actions, and to encourage others to undertake positive behaviours and
Some of the pejorative terms (for unsustainable behaviour) we tested have         avoid negative ones. The most positive outcome of this study was to identify
the opposite effect of that intended, leading people to value and defend the      a range of positive terminology associated with sustainable travel. The words
behaviour associated with the unflattering term. Accusations of ‘being talked     do work.
down to’, ‘manipulated’ or even of ‘propaganda’ are levelled at language that
is associated with guilt.
                                                                                                                                                         No-one re
                                                                                                                                                         to themse rred
                                                                                                                                                         as a recyc es
‘We’ not ‘You’
Tapping into a sense of cooperation, community or shared interest appeared                                                                                         ler’
to resonate more with our focus groups than terms associated with individual
or personal behaviours. We searched for sustainability terms that implied
mass social action or generated ‘social proof’ to test, but found that most
terms encourage atomised individual behaviour. Research consistently
shows that we follow the behaviour we see around us rather than making
isolated decisions. A terminology of sustainability ‘participation’ rather than
‘atomisation’ is urgently needed.

02 Futerra	Words that sell                                                        03
How to use this guide                                                            Second Chance Waste and Smart Appliances

Although more detailed focus group tested would be useful, we hope               Words associated with waste and efficiency were the easiest to test;
that the conclusions from this short study will be immediately useful            people understood the context, and most had taken some action. We
for anyone trying to engage the public in attitude or behaviour change           didn’t test the word ‘recycling’, which has already entered the common
for sustainable development.                                                     lexicon.

As you’ll see, we tested a range of words and phrases, from common               ZERO WASTE
sustainable development terminology to new terms we thought might work.
                                                                                 The term ‘zero waste’ was well received, and seemed to resonate with several
We have categorised the terms we tested in four typologies based on              people in the focus groups.
our findings:
                                                                                 “If only we could work towards the notion of zero waste. The whole
                                                                                 business of fashion is ridiculous; no one wants things because they
                                                                                 are the wrong colour”
                                                                                 “We’ve got to work towards it; get the figure down”

                             AMBER WORDS                                         Only one negative association was raised: that the term was pejorative.
                             words that might
GREEN WORDS                  work, but were not
                                                        RED WORDS
                                                        words that were          “The only zero I think of is ‘zero tolerance’, like in New York. It’s too
terms that people            entirely successful
                                                        easily misunderstood     authoritarian. It’s about being told what to do”
liked and understood
                                                        or disliked

                                                                                 LESS IS MORE
                                                                                 ‘Less is more’ was interpreted as a reference to packaging and waste (rather
                                                                                 than efficiency), an issue that raised temperatures.
We also have also noted words that are still to be tested properly, because
                                                                                 “Packaging drives me bananas – it’s such a waste”
we didn’t get enough evidence to add them to our traffic light rating.
                                                                                 “There’s too much waste. It’s ridiculous”
At the end of each section we have also listed words that were totally ignored
                                                                                 “It annoys me; it didn’t use to be like this”
by respondents. These are words they did not want to discuss, and for our
next research paper we’d love to discover why not.                               “You pay money for packaging, then throw it away”

                                                                                 There were many positive responses to ‘less is more’ and associated
                                                                                 sayings such as ‘one man’s waste is another man’s asset’ that we introduced
                                                                                 to the group.

                                                                                 “It makes me think of when I was little and my mum used a hessian bag”
                                                                                 “Someone else can use what you don’t want”
                                                                                 “I come at it in a philosophical sense. Less is more”

                                                                                 This term also initiated comments about the wider principle of
                                                                                 sustainable living.

                                                                                 “Use this slogan to come up with an eco-friendly life: chuck out lots,      “It annoys
                                                                                 prioritise, get rid of clutter and nick-nacks, put a whole new head on”      it didn’t us ;
                                                                                                                                                             be like this to

04 Futerra	Words that sell                                                       05
Second Chance Waste and Smart Appliances

Packaging is therefore an extremely useful ‘entry point’ for discussions of                     Some recognised that ‘smart’ fridges and washing machines already exist. It
sustainability. Common wisdom has decided that to be angry and frustrated                       is worth noting that respondents were very comfortable with both ‘smart’ and
about packaging is a socially acceptable position. Terms such as ‘less is                       ‘savvy’ and yet no-one mentioned ‘efficient’, a word that our research suggests
more’ applied in this context aid familiarity (crucial for social acceptance) and               is not in common parlance.
confidence in discussing the issue.
                                                                                                On ‘energy-greedy’ appliances, some immediately assumed the term was
                                                                                                a label that would be shown “on high-energy appliances, like tumble driers
SECOND CHANCE RUBBISH                                                                           and electric fires”.
The concept of ‘second chance rubbish’ was an attempt to add to the                             “A useful notice, not a propaganda exercise. It will save on our bills”
terminology of recycling and proved quite successful. Most powerful was
                                                                                                “‘Labelling on electrical appliances, to dissuade us to buy it”
the implicit anthropomorphism of rubbish that created empathy with waste.

“You give a person a second chance; it’s worked for a while so you give                         The personification of ‘energy greedy’ was easily understood and translated
it another chance”                                                                              to domestic appliances such as TVs left on, or on standby, for long periods
                                                                                                of time.
“It gives rubbish a personality – a second chance”
                                                                                                “It would dissuade people from buying it – think twice about switching on”
It was also associated with “vintage fashion, second hand clothes” and
                                                                                                “It makes me think of the wheel on the electricity meter”
“refurbished scanners”. Something quite complex was going on here, related
to the merits of ‘new’ versus ‘used’ and the changing relationship emerging                     The last comment, which shows that the term creates a mental picture of
with both concepts.                                                                             energy use, is very encouraging. Anything that builds an understanding of
This concept of personification deserves much more attention in terms of the                    energy use should be welcomed. Of course, the barriers to behaviour change
value placed on resources. Many attempts have been made to give resources                       still remain, and unfortunately no clever word will change that.
and waste tangible or financial value, but this research identifies a potential                 “We leave on three TVs when we are not watching them – it takes so
‘emotional value’.                                                                              much energy”

                                                                                                WATTAGE WASTAGE and CUT THE BUZZ
One of the most powerful dynamics was in the comparison between ‘smart’
appliances and ‘energy-greedy’ ones. Unexpectedly, respondents assumed                          Two new terms that received interesting but mixed responses were ‘wattage
these terms were intended as official labels that would be visible at the point                 wastage’ and ‘cut the buzz’.
of sale!                                                                                        ‘Wattage wastage’ was thought to relate both to home and business
The word ‘smart’ in particular was seen as an implicit compliment for those                     environments.
who chose clever appliances.                                                                    “‘Things in the home and in offices as well. It’s madness; why not turn off?”
“Clever enough not to waste energy”                                                             “This is down to electricity, lights, bulbs”
“It’s clever; more expensive to buy, but cheaper in the long term”
                                                                                                “Leaving lights on, left on standby – I’m paranoid about waste”
“Run on something that’s better for the environment, like Smart cars.

They don’t waste energy”                                                                        For most, ‘wattage’ refers specifically to light bulbs, although the alliteration
“Or washing machines that turn themselves off”                                   r ubb –        was regarded as light-hearted and therefore welcomed.

                                                                          g ives nality nce.”
                                                                      “`It erso cha
                                                                                                ‘Cut the buzz’ was intended to inspire a feeling of electrical equipment filling
                                                                                                a room with an unpleasant low-level noise, helping people to remember to
                                                                         a p cond               switch off unnecessary lights and devices. For some this worked well.
                                                                          a se                  “Turn it off; don’t leave phone chargers on overnight; no white noise”

                                                                                                For others, however, the term related to the media ‘buzz’ about the
                                                                                                environment. As a phrase, ‘cut the buzz’ deserves more testing, and may
                                                                                                be more effective when tested with visual or audio prompts.

06 Futerra	Words that sell                                                                      07
                                                                                            Spurting and Savvy Driving
                                                                            t le
                                                                        in, n ss rubb
                                                                       the b t feedin ish
                                                                             in.”    g
SLIM BINS                                                                                   Terms concerned with travel and transport were the most contentious
                                                                                            and likely to elicit psychological reactance and accusations of
Another of our attempts to personify a term was to associate waste efficiency               propaganda. However, they were also the terms where social
with eating less or dieting. This worked for some.                                          proof was weakest – people openly disagreed with each other and
“Put less rubbish in, not feeding the bin”                                                  demonstrated anxiety about ‘the right thing to do’.
“If you recycle most stuff then you won’t have a big fat bin”

However, there was significant confusion over the meaning of this phrase,                   FLIGHT ADDICT and HABITUAL FLYER
and some felt personally insulted by terminology around weight and eating.
                                                                                            Surprisingly, the accusatory term ‘flight addict’ was rather popular, and the
                                                                                            only term that was associated with personal holiday flying.

                                                                                            “Some people are just so set in their ways – going to the Costa del Sol
STILL TO TEST                                                                               every year”

Other terms Futerra would like to test include:                                             “They don’t look at other options”

1. ‘Landfill bins’ versus ‘Recycling bins’                                                  This is one of the very few terms in the research that was liked for its
                                                                                            tongue-in-cheek humour.
2. Cut, collect and combine
                                                                                            “It’s a joke, a bit cheeky, a bit of a dig”
3. Bin-free environment
                                                                                            Similarly, the phrase ‘habitual flyer’ created a mental image of a socially
4. Built-in waste
                                                                                            unacceptable person, and was one of the few terms that also elicited
5. Leak-free energy                                                                         spontaneous discussion of alternatives to flying.

                                                                                            “It’s someone who flies a lot. Flies to Scotland when they could take the train”
IGNORED WORDS                                                                               “It’s mainly habit. They fly to Manchester when they could make
                                                                                            a conference call”
• Resource efficiency
                                                                                            We have judged these terms to be useful and readily applicable, although
• Energy efficiency                                                                         with the warning that all travel terminology isn’t without risk.
                                                                                            “You can’t stop people living their life”

                                                                                                                                                             at oth don’t loo
                                                                                                                                                                    er op     k

08 Futerra	Words that sell                                                                  09
             Spurting and Savvy Driving                                                                                                                                    “ Ho
                                                                                                                                                                           that tractive
                                                                                                                                                                          ever is in
                                                                                                                                                                               y wa
             NON-ESSENTIAL FLYING                                                                  BINGE FLYING
             This term prompted heated debate between respondents, partly focused                  Although obviously a more aggressive attack upon flying, this phrase was less
             on the definition of ‘essential’.                                                     ambiguous and was clearly understood to refer to excessive flying.

             “They always get at us. What is essential? We are all different. Most flights are     “How unattractive that is in every way”
             essential; if it’s quick it’s quick”                                                  “Greedy and grabbing, but not thought through properly
             “If it’s essential to you and you want to fly, then go and do it. You work every      “It’s the same category as a binge drinker”
             day of your life, so you want to take your family on holiday”
             “I don’t think this is going to go anywhere. I cannot see people saying, ‘I’ll only   The term was clearly associated with wealthy or privileged people.
             take one holiday, not two’”
                                                                                                   “Excessive behaviour and drinking champagne on the plane”
             “How many people in the world take non-essential flights? I bet it’s a tenth
             of one percent”                                                                       However, the term is still classified as amber in our traffic light rating because,
                                                                                                   for some, it was at odds with their perceptions of flying.
             Concerns were raised about who decided what was essential and what
             wasn’t. Interestingly, flights weren’t generally referred to as ‘pleasant’ or         “Fashionable – like it’s fashionable to have a tan”
             ‘desirable’ but rather as a necessary and unavoidable means of getting to
             a holiday destination.                                                                We believe that this term might be used successfully for excessive business
                                                                                                   flying, especially when associated with ‘fat cat’ terminology.
             Views on business flying were less polarised, with a majority feeling confident
             to condemn the rich and privileged.

             “Non-essential flying is when businesses fly people all round the world, and          SPURTING
             the royals in their private jets”
                                                                                                   This is a term currently used by some pressure groups to define non-essential
             Although ‘non-essential flying’ is currently used (especially by government)          flying. The term totally polarised the two socio-economic groups we tested.
             to avoid the perception of an attack on holiday flights, its ambiguity actually       Many of those with a middle class outlook could barely bring themselves to
             has the opposite effect. Respondents worried that ‘non-essential’ equals              say it out loud, whereas working class respondents considered it witty and apt.
             ‘non-business’, and the ambiguity therefore leaves open the interpretation
                                                                                                   “People would say, ‘what is that?’ It’s spurting out fuel, rushing from one place
             of a direct attack on family holidays!
                                                                                                   to another, using too much fuel… spurting it away”

                                                                                                   Despite the positive response from some, the discomfort created by the term
                                                                                                   in others is cause for using the term with care

“They alw
 get at us. ys
 is essenti What

             10 Futerra	Words that sell                                                            11
Spurting and Savvy Driving

SAVVY DRIVING                                                                                 STRESS-FREE MOTORING
Of all the terms researched, this had perhaps the greatest appeal with                        Some respondents strongly identified with the desire for stress-free driving.
people across the focus groups. Depending on your outlook, ‘savvy’
could imply either ‘intelligent decisions’ or ‘good common sense’.                            “Starting and leaving work early to avoid the traffic”
                                                                                              “Sharing a journey”
While it could have an environmental or resource connotation,              “Sav
                                                                           bein is abou
‘savvy driving’ is more likely to capture the understanding that we                           “Stress-free driving is about guilt-free driving, like car-sharing. A lot of this
                                                                                              eco green stuff is about guilt”
can all change aspects of our driving behaviour to reduce costs                 g sm      t
and unnecessary waste.                                                               art”     However, for some the concept was totally alien.
“Drive clever and drive the right sort of car”
                                                                                              “I love driving and don’t see why people get stressed”
“Savvy is about being smart”
                                                                                              More research is needed for this term to determine the demographic that
Some observed their own illogical and lazy behaviour, such as sitting                         is likely to respond most positively.
in the school run when it would be quicker to walk. This also has
positive aspects, such as “chat time for me and my daughter”.
                                                                                              ECO-SAFE DRIVING
“If you could see the queue of traffic outside my daughter’s school…”
                                                                                              To put it bluntly, this term wasn’t discussed – simply laughed at.
Excitingly for sustainable development, ‘savvy driving’ associations weren’t
just with unnecessary journeys.

“The way a person drives: turning off the engine, driving slowly, using your
eco-brain, car pooling, don’t waste petrol”
                                                                                              STILL TO TEST
It was even suggested that it could have street appeal.                                       Other terms Futerra would like to test include:
“Some see savvy driving as cooler than eco-driving”
                                                                                              Anti-social driving

The principle of the challenge was recognised and was linked to “Chelsea
tractors; if they drive a mile it’s cost a pound in petrol”.
                                                                                              IGNORED WORDS
                                                                                              There were no ignored words in this topic.
Others recognised that it has a wider focus, encouraging people “to be more
aware of how your car performs in terms of petrol”.

However, this term doesn’t get a green rating because only some people
(mainly men) in the groups knew what MPG stands for.

12 Futerra	Words that sell                                                                    13
                 Sparks That Last

                 We assumed that words associated with energy would be readily                     FINITE ENERGY SOURCES
                 understood. However, many terms that have become familiar (and, in
                 some cases, almost clichéd) to sustainability professionals are still             This term seemed both easily understood and non-contentious.
                 new and unfamiliar to the general public. This provides a real window             “Coal and wood that is naturally depleting, not being replaced”
                 of opportunity to reconsider our terminology and choose options that
                 are potentially more successful.                                                  It also raised issues of access and equity, “because the world is

                 IN-HOUSE GENERATION                                                               SPARKS THAT LAST
                 This term was seen in the context of domestic energy, and carried positive        This phrase was liked by those for whom the use of ‘sparks’ was inextricably
                 associations.                                                                     linked to electricians (or ‘sparkies’).

                 “Generating power within your home, solar power, self-sufficient, self-reliant,   For many this was described as ‘catchy’, implying “electric to last;
                 solar power and double glazing, treble glazing”                                   guaranteed power”.
“ It does        “There are self-sufficient houses in some areas of the country”                   However, despite its positive association, the term was found to be rather
 it says o hat                                                                                     ambiguous, and should only be used within a clear context.
          n      Respondents gave unexpectedly clear feedback about why this was
the tin”         a positive term.

                 “It’s punchy and positive. It’s not offensive, it’s not aggressive and it’s not
                                                                                                   GREEN POWER
                 political”                                                                        This was generally thought to mean “creating power using air, wind
                 “It does what it says on the tin”                                                 and water”.

                                                                                                   One focus group member also saw it as a play on ‘girl power’.
                 This ‘neutrality’ was seen as a real benefit of the term, especially when
                 compared with others. ‘Doing exactly what it says on the tin’ is widely           Interestingly, the use of ‘green’ opened up a wider discussion about the
                 regarded as a very good thing.                                                    word itself.

                                                                                                   “It needs to be protected”
                 INDEPENDENT POWER                                                                 “It’s on the way to being devalued”
                 This was also seen as a positive phrase.
                                                                                                   In fact, it’s this association that convinced us to rate ‘green power’ as amber
                 “The energy companies obviously don’t want it”                                    rather than green. Not everyone feels as strongly about ‘natural’ issues as
                 “If your home heats itself you’re not dependent on big companies”                 they might about energy. We need to avoid assuming that the public holds
                                                                                                   consistent environmental views.
                 Being independent of big companies was seen as slightly rebellious and
                 positive as ‘an Englishman’s home is his castle’. However, some concern was
                 raised about the possibility of this independence..

                 “We don’t build our homes in that way; we’ve missed the opportunity”

                 14 Futerra	Words that sell                                                        15
Sparks That Last

POSTCODE POWER                                                                                 STILL TO TEST
This was an attempt to explain decentralised energy systems.                    gg ests ng     Other terms Futerra would like to test include:
Some understood that the term alludes to local power sources.            “It su re helpi
                                                                           you’ me way ”       1. Everybody is an energy company
“It means local”
                                                                            in so              2. Resilient renewables
“It suggests that you’re helping in some way”
                                                                                               3. Grid-free energy
However for others there is a negative link with the more established concept
of the ‘postcode lottery’.                                                                     4. DIY energy

“You can get treatment in some parts of the country but not in others”

Therefore, while this phrase has some traction, it must be used consistently                   IGNORED WORDS
for people to be clear about its meaning.
                                                                                               Renewable energy

MICROGENERATION                                                                                Decentralised energy
Not only was ‘microgeneration’ not understood, it was selected as a disliked
word. The most common interpretation was that ‘micro’ referred to tiny energy
sources, such as might be found in a mobile phone.

“It’s a microchip, isn’t it?”
“Things getting smaller and smaller”

With better words available, a tough decision needs to be made about
continuing to use terms like these which the public doesn’t grasp.

This is one of the terms that raise people’s hackles.

“It makes me angry”

The respondent who wanted to discuss this word chose it because he didn’t
like it. It’s clearly pejorative and in danger of creating a negative reaction.

16 Futerra	Words that sell                                                                     17
                   One Planet What?

                   The final group of words tested was associated with footprints                                   GLOBALLY ALERT and CITIZEN CONSUMERS
                   and global equity. These were the most difficult to get people to
                   understand, but the least contentious of all the terms tested.                                   We assumed that ‘globally alert’ would be regarded as a distant or even
                                                                                                                    negative term. However, this phrase seems to convey a sense that we can
                                                                                                                    make a difference together.
                   ONE PLANET LIVING                                                                                “Do what you can, making a difference as individuals”
                   This was liked, although interestingly no one mentioned having come across                       “This is about not being insular – thinking globally, acting locally”
                   it before.
                                                                                                                    “You cannot change the world single handed. It’s about being globally aware –
                   It was seen to capture a sense of global community and shared values.                            the world’s population can attack the issues”

                   “Not going off on our own tangents; everyone pulling together, in the right                      The term was associated with another, ‘citizen consumers’, which also enjoyed
                   direction to stop destroying things; nurturing what we have got; everyone                        a positive response.
                   doing something”                                                                                 “We are all responsible for what we do. Responsible for ourselves and our
                   “The governments need to make an impact to get this one off the ground”                          households”

                   “We need to stop destroying things and nurture what we have left”                                “It means taking responsibility for yourself”

                   “Everyone is doing something now”                                                                These two terms don’t seem to suffer from the problem that ‘it refers to
                                                                                                                    someone else’, and even encourage personal responsibility. While not
                   The most encouraging part of this response is that it is associated with peace                   necessarily familiar or elegant terms, they tap into a growing feeling of the
                   and accord as well as environmental sustainability. However, it was generally                    need for individual action.
                   felt to denote government responsibility rather than personal behaviour.

                                                                                                                    CARBON FOOTPRINT
                   GREEN and CONSCIOUS LIFESTYLES
                                                                                                                    This term was generally liked and has clear imagery.
“Everyo            ‘Green lifestyle’ was liked as a straightforward and meaningful statement:
 doing so is                                                                                                        “What you leave behind”
         mething   “Get to the source of the problem; but not obsessive or religious about the
now”               environment”                                                                                     “It’s not about blame, it’s about responsibility”
                                                                                                                    “It says it clearly”
                   A conscious lifestyle reflects a need to think more about the fact that “we live
                   in a material world. Things I like to do, places I like to go. I identify with that”.            However, few had ever heard the term, while one observed that “carbon – you
                                                                                                                    get that everywhere, don’t you?”
                   While both were seen as ‘fluffy’ terms, people still felt positively about them.
                                                                                                                    An associated term that was also liked was the idea of a ‘positive footprint’.
                                                                                                                    So much of the green footprint terminology deals with mitigating negative
                   SQUARE DEAL                                                                                      impacts that it ignores the desire of many people to make a good impression.
                   The phrase ‘square deal actions’ was associated with positive ethical and                         “We all leave a trail behind us. We’d like the world to be a nice place when
                   environmental principles.                                                                        they grow up”
                   “If we didn’t care we wouldn’t have Fairtrade”                                                   “If we could all make our footprints a bit more positive, we could really do
                                                                                                “We are becoming
                   “It’s a Fairtrade thing, isn’t it? A square deal is a fair deal”
                   “We are becoming aware that the Earth is finite”
                                                                                                 aware that the     This association of footprint with positive impacts as well as negative ones is

                   Again, this term plays on common sense and common language                    Earth is finite”   a useful development in the sustainable development terminology.

                   – and benefits in testing as a result.

                   18 Futerra	Words that sell                                                                       19
     One Planet What?

     CLIMATE-FRIENDLY LIFE                                                               DEVELOPING / DEVELOPED WORLD
     This term has the potential to communicate a broad spectrum picture of              These were surprisingly contentious terms. It was suggested that the phrase
     environmentally-conscious living, and it triggers emotional responses.              ‘developed world’ is arrogant and hides problems in our own society

     “I think this is a bit of a daydream, but I think how lovely it would be for the    “‘This is sarcastic. Developed in what way? We still have a lot of truancy,
     children to grow up in such a climate-friendly world. Green fields, fresh air and   poverty …”
     less pollution”
                                                                                         “There’s lots of stuff that happens in Third World countries that happens in
     However, that response is also a warning signal about the ‘achievability’ of the    developed countries – it’s just hidden”

     One person also observed that “we don’t control the climate!”                       POOR COUNTRIES / RICH COUNTRIES
                                                                                         Associated with ‘developing / developed world’ were the concepts of ‘poor
     BLINKERED LIFESTYLE                                                                 countries / rich countries’, which also raised deep concerns.

     Respondents identified with this term and the dilemmas they face.                   “‘We are dependent on having poor countries”

     “I do worry, but it doesn’t stop me getting on a plane”                             “We have lots of strategies to make sure they stay as poor as long as
     “People can talk about it but don’t do anything”
                                                                                         “Are we prepared to give up what we’ve got?”
     “We can’t keep blaming ourselves, choosing to go through life without taking
     note of all the issues”                                                             “We cannot have the whole world wasting at the level we do. Poor countries
                                                                                         have a right not to be poor. As soon as they exercise that right, we have
     It also evoked anger at the concept of double standards.                            serious problems”
     “It’s up to the government – why has Prescott got two cars and they tell you        The whole global equity issue was very emotionally worrisome for participants.
     not to get in your car?”
                                                                                         “Very concerning, serious problems around the corner for my children”
     Although understandable and liked, the term is rated amber because of the
     apathy and fatalism it generated.                                                   These terms therefore have an amber rating: use them with care. Although
                                                                                         those of us involved in sustainable development may use them blithely, they
                                                                                         are value-laden for the public.

“I d o worry, top
  it doesn’ g on
   me gettin
   a plane”

     20 Futerra	Words that sell                                                          21
One Planet What?                                                                                 Overview: the findings

Red terms within the same area were ‘North / South’. When understood in an
international context the terms were disliked. In addition, some respondents
thought the terms referred to the north and south of the UK.                                           GREEN WORDS              AMBER WORDS              RED WORDS
                                                                                                                                                         words that were
                                                                                                       terms that people        words that might
“I don’t like it; the North-South divide”                                                                                                                easily misunderstood
                                                                                                       liked and understood     work, but were not
                                                                                                                                                         or disliked
                                                                                                                                entirely successful

                                                                                    WASTE AND          Zero	waste	              Wattage	wastage	         Slim	bins
Although intended to imply a move towards equity, the concept of ‘my slice of
                                                                                    EFFICIENCY         Less	is	more	            Cut	the	buzz
the pie’ suggested individualism and people looking after their own interests.
                                                                                                       Second	chance	rubbish	
“I’m alright Jack; pull up the ladder”                                                                 Smart	appliances	
This also spontaneously (and unexpectedly) seemed to initiate anti-American                            appliances

“One American uses as much energy as thirty Indians”                                TRAVEL AND         Flight	addict	           Non-essential	flying	    Eco-safe	driving	
                                                                                    TRANSPORT          Habitual	flyer	          Binge	flying	
“Americans eat as much as they can, but they don’t know where Canada is.                               Savvy	driving            Spurting	
They are insular”                                                                                                               The	MPG	challenge	
                                                                                                                                Stress-free	motoring
“They’ve got a big slice of the pie”

This term should therefore be avoided unless carefully placed in context.
Rather than generating a feeling that everyone deserves a fair slice, it leads to   ENERGY             In-house	generation	     Sparks	that	last	        Microgeneration	
feeling of being ‘hard done by’ in an UK audience.                                                     Independent	power	       Green	power	             Conflict	energy
                                                                                                       Finite	energy	sources    Postcode	power

STILL TO TEST                                                                       FOOTPRINTS          One	Planet	Living	      Climate-friendly	life	   North	/	South	
Other terms Futerra would like to test include:                                     AND GLOBAL          Green	lifestyle	        Blinkered	lifestyle		    My	slice	of	the	pie
                                                                                    EQUITY              Conscious	lifestyle	    Developing	/	
1. Eco-savvy life                                                                                       Square	deal	            developed	world	
                                                                                                        Globally	alert	         Poor	countries	/	rich	
2. Living lightly                                                                                       Citizen	consumers	      countries
                                                                                                        Carbon	footprint	
3. Green legacy
                                                                                                        Positive	footprint

Environmental footprint

Low-carbon living

22 Futerra	Words that sell                                                                       23
The research

These research findings centre on qualitative research planned and
commissioned by Futerra, and undertaken by OnEarth.

The qualitative research consisted of two focus groups held in London during
Spring 2007. The aim was to test a series of established and new terms
describing sustainable lifestyles with members of the public, to understand
which ones work, which ones don’t work – and why.

Participants were drawn from a mixture of life stages: parents, young adults
and older people. One focus group was composed of people from the socio-
economic group ABC1, and the other from C2DE. 1

                             GROUP 1                        GROUP 2

 GENDER                      MALE/FEMALE (4/4)              MALE/FEMALE (4/4)

 AGE                         25-44/45-64/65+(3/3/2)         25-44/45-64/65+(3/3/2

 SOCIO-ECONOMIC              ABC1 (8)                       C2DE (8)

We excluded people describing themselves as ‘environmental activists’ to
ensure that no-one in the room could present themselves as an ‘expert’ to the
other participants.

The direction of this research is fascinating, but it’s only one study. Focus
groups in different parts of the country, drawn from urban and rural
populations and including a greater variety of demographics, would greatly
increase the insights available.

Futerra intends to build upon and supplement this research over the coming

1 The socio-economic grades A, B, C1, C2, D and E are often grouped into ABC1 and C2DE.
  These are taken to equate to ‘middle class’ and ‘working class’ respectively.

24 Futerra	Words that sell
Thanks to the authors of the following books:

The Power of Words: Advertising tricks of the trade
Richard F Taflinger

The Language Instinct: How the mind creates language
Steven Pinker
Special thanks to OnEarth

Futerra Sustainability Communications
4 Charterhouse Square

+44 (0)20 7549 4700

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