Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Carbon Emissions Chic

I'm more sustainable than you.
 
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Note: this idea was written with the US in mind and may not be make sense in other countries. It's an attempt at resolving the conflict between the need to reduce energy consumption and the ideal of bigger is better.

I know a couple people who got a new Prius in the past year or so. To me this is a very luxurious car. I really like it that this is a car with high fuel economy that has, at least as a new car, some status associated with it. The status is important, because many people here in the US wouldn't be seen dead in an “econobox”, just because it doesn't look expensive enough. Expensive, wasteful things have a status associated with them – it is the privilege to be wasteful.

I'd like to generalize the concept of sustainability as a means to achieve status, in place of the wasteful overconsumption of bigger is better.

How about a $70.000 Lexus Prius that gets even better fuel economy than the Toyota model? Perhaps it is handpainted by local artisans. Move to houses: instead of building the biggest and silliest starter castle/mcmansion, build houses that are visibly fuel efficient and more expensive than lower price houses. I'm thinking of roomy multi-family, multistory dwellings built in a park like setting, perhaps with some country-club style facilities, sold at a very high price. In return for the premium price, owners live in an upscale building with magnificent, unique architecture and the best neighbors.

This has to be visible, so envy can take hold and this kind of living becomes desirable. Fuel efficient city dwellers that are invisible to grand-living exurbanites are insufficient: move it into the exurbs, combined with efficient, public transportation.

Thinking of other ways to extend this. Wealthier, more accomplished people travel by luxury shuttle (a bus) and rail. These pricey buses and train always arrive on time and computer systems prevent people from having to wait or stand in the cold.

We need a new middle class group that has the money to live a wealthy carbon neutral lifestyle, a more modern class that is the envy of and supercedes the people driving new SUV's and living in large homes. Make it visible and use design and architecture to help show superiority (superiority appears to be a common craving).

jmvw, Nov 26 2006

[link]






       WIBNI?
Chefboyrbored, Nov 27 2006
  

       [Chefboyrbored], this is a new concept that can be made real by manufacturers, exurban "city" planners and real estate developers.   

       [21 Quest], but this idea does not make any existing methods of energy conservation more expensive. It doesn't even aim to make energy conservation overall more expensive. It is a proposal to offer a new, very sustainable lifestyle for people that are fairly well off.
jmvw, Nov 27 2006
  

       [phlish], will the following week cover the difference between 'different from' and 'different than'?
imaginality, Nov 27 2006
  

       Thank you, [phlish]. I should have known about the difference between the words then and than, but I forgot there was one. My bad. Aside from that, you may want to scrutinize your own writing (comparrison, missing question mark) when you correct.   

       I don't really see sustainability as a "product", but I suppose it would be in a marketer's eye. The idea is specific to attaching status to sustainability though, not products in general.   

       Do you find this idea offensive?
jmvw, Nov 27 2006
  

       Ian, we have a considerable part of the population who admires the idea of the "grand" life. Goals are biggest, most powerful truck for personal transportation, the biggest house, the fastest boat, etc. It's all around me where I live and an SUV parade of Cadillac Escalades, Ford Expeditions and so on comes by twice a day (not trying to knock anyone who owns one). Most people do not have all of these things, but there is an ambition toward it. You may call it shallow, but it is a common reality. How can you ask these people to abandon their ideals and become modest in their consumption? People like this will feel a pain when you ask them to drive a small car, or worse, will feel they're unfree and not allowed to have what they want. This is true, take it from me.   

       I'm not suggesting abandoning motivation to sustainable living for the purpose of that being the right and only durable way to live. I merely tried to come up with a way that an environmentally sound way of living can become a goal to the people who like big.
jmvw, Nov 27 2006
  

       You have a point, but Toyota seems to be doing quite well with the concept. As of June 7, 2006, 266,212 Prii had been sold in the US. If these cars get 50 mpg average, are driven 12000 miles per year and their owners had otherwise bought new 30 mpg economy cars, CO2 emissions have been reduced by 850 million pounds, about 390,000 metric tons per year. I think we agree that carbon emissions chic exists in the Prius, but you're saying it's not worth as a concept to expand further. Considering the lack of votes here, you may not be the only one who sees it that way.
jmvw, Nov 28 2006
  

       OK, and I agree with you, but I'm not thinking of raising the price of anything.   

       Just want to offer alternative options for people who tend to make more wasteful choices, i.e. a highly efficient vehicle that will appeal to the guy who commutes to the office in an F-250. This is an extreme example, but if it can be done in a way that makes that guy happy, so much the better.
jmvw, Nov 28 2006
  
      
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