Eco brands: a peak into the future
Eco trends in the marketplace. A glimpse into some future prospects!
Fashion and pop culture
Global fashion brands, Target and Banana Republic, both launched new eco-clothing ranges recently. Banana Republic’s eco line includes bamboo, organic cotton, linen, and other sustainable materials and consists of a range of 50 pieces. In addition, from April 22nd to 27th 2008 1% of the brand’s in-store sales were donated to Trust for Public Lands, a non-profit land conservation organisation. The retailer also announced a switch to energy-conversing light bulbs and recycled packaging. Similarly, Target, another major international retailer, commissioned its first line of 60 eco-friendly pieces (interestingly, to be put on sale initially at luxury retailer Barneys, New York) from Rogan Gregory, a leading eco fashion designer.
On the technology front, we can expect more innovation such as the new Asus notebook – set for release this year – a laptop with a bamboo exterior and internal components made of recyclable plastic and cardboard lining. No toxic paints, sprays or electroplating have been used in any of it components. Might bamboo cellphones be next?
And then there’s adidas’ GRUN collection, launched in 2008. The collection ‘aims to better the environment by efficiently utilising natural resources by developing new products made entirely from recycled and natural materials’, such as bamboo and hemp. The three brand pillars of the range are “Made From”, “Recycled” and “Reground”. The “Reground” range is fully biodegradable, even down to the zips, which adidas claims is a world first. To support the product range, adidas has teamed up with Dazed Digital to drive a ‘guerrilla gardening’ campaign across London. Guerrilla gardening has seen young culture jammers and social activists swapping their spray cans for gardening gloves to beautify urban areas – street style – via night time gardening!
Architecture and property
Locally FNB recently reported that demand for eco-estates is holding firm in the KZN area, reflecting a gradual shift away from Golf Estate living. This shift is particularly noticeable in Gauteng, where golf estate saturation seems to have been reached. In the property development sector the new focus is on communal living set ups with a strong eco-focus. This trend is likely to grow in the property sector, especially in light of South Africa’s recently sharpened awareness of energy and environmental efficiency.
Globally, we can expect ever-more momentum in the creation of eco cities or eco zones. Look, for example, at the already much hyped Masdar Initiative, a six-million-square-meter development planned for Abu Dhabi. Masdar aims to be the world’s first “zero carbon, zero waste” city. It will also be car-free, with surrounding land planned to contain wind and photovoltaic farms (as well as research fields and plantations) to allow the entire city to be self-sustaining.
The same developers, Foster + Partners, are also busy planning Moscow’s Crystal Island – a new development located on the Nagatino Peninsula, on the cusp of the Moscow River. The $4 billion “city inside a building”, is planned to be built in the next five years, and the developers say it will reach 450 metres into the sky and house up to 30,000 residents. The exterior façade will be ‘solar responsive and will include solar panels which, along with wind turbines, will generate electricity for the huge tower. Dynamic enclosure panels can be controlled to modify temperature inside the building—closed in winter for extra warmth and opened in summer to allow natural ventilation.’
The rumblings have long been present in the automotive sector – hybrid vehicles and speculation around hydrogen cells and electric cars are already common media fare. But the next decade will see an explosion of re-gearing (in branding and technical terms) when it comes to automotive brands. And, while the major brands jostle for position and share of mind / heart in the eco-capitalist context, expect new challenges from upstarts like Tata, which is aggressively launching cheap cars such as the Nano into third world markets.
Witness also BMW’s planned Hydrogen 7 series which claims to have an engine that actively cleans the air and deliverers emissions that, ‘for certain components, such as Non Methane Organic Gases (NMOG’s) and Carbon Monoxides (CO’s), are cleaner than the ambient air that comes into the car’s engine.’ Realistic or not, the Hydrogen 7 series illustrates perfectly the sort of innovations automotive brands are likely to be delivering – en mass – in coming years.
FNB’s new flagship building (which in fact looks extraordinarily like a ship emerging from the red highveld earth) just off Joburg’s N1 highway proudly proclaims its energy efficiency via an outdoor advert. The ad is another sure sign as to how much energy efficiency has suddenly begun to matter in South African and global society. Hence, we can expect the rapid emergence and increasing influence of energy consultants, for the office and the home. Such consultants will (for a fee, of course) assist in setting up an operational context that is energy efficient, and therefore cost efficient. The scope of intervention is bound to be wide – from garbage to geysers and heaters, energy consultants are certain to be a strong new feature on the brandscape in the future. Just as IT consults suddenly appeared in our lives in the 1990s, so eco-consultants are beginning to appear, around about now.
Innovation x 1000
If you thought the world of IT was complicated, you ‘aint seen nothing yet. Consider virtual water, a concept coined by King’s College’s John Anthony Allen. Virtual water assesses the ’embedded water’ in any particular item. Embedded water is all the water used to produce that item along the value and production chain. A single cup of coffee, for instance, requires an astounding 140 litres of virtual water to reach your lips when the water used for growing, producing, packaging and shipping beans is factored in. Similarly, a hamburger has been calculated to contain 2400 litres of virtual water.
Now this may sound like silly stuff, but the world is staring down the barrel of a massive water crisis, and very soon the idea of virtual water, along with the notion of ‘off-setting’ virtual water via credits, could become common currency. Indeed, it is within the realm of possibility that virtual water could be traded on open exchanges in the future.
Virtual water offers just one example of how conceptually abstract and complicated eco-capitalism is shaping up to be, which is ironic, considering the very concrete impact environmental degradation is having on global society in terms of food supply and quality of life. Extreme innovation is at the root of much future eco-capitalist activity, so get your thinking cap on!