Consumer Trend: Eco-shaming

The climate emergency has triggered a new response to double standards when it comes to making damaging lifestyle choices and ‘Eco-Shaming’ is the way consumers are highlighting environmental hypocrisy

When the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were outed for having used private jets over the summer in spite of the fact that they are both vocal on the subject of the climate emergency, there were angry calls for them to call a halt to their hypocrisy. Demands for them to lead by example to help protect the planet rather than pay lip service to a worthy cause resonated all over social media.

Eco-shaming is the way consumers are highlighting environmental hypocrisy and is a new response to our climate emergency #flygskam #tagskryt Click To Tweet

At the same time, 16-year-old climate change activist Greta Thunberg took a well-publicised trip to New York by boat. Her two-week zero-emission journey on board a 60-foot carbon-neutral racing yacht highlighted the double standards of frequent flyers, as it emerged that Harry and Meghan weren’t the only jet-setting stars with shocking carbon footprints.

According to The Times, Bill Gates took 59 flights in 2017 travelling 343,000km, Paris Hilton took 68 flights travelling 275,000km and Jennifer Lopez took 77 flights travelling 224,000km.

The rise of ‘flygskam’ or flight shame, an anti-flying movement that started in Sweden, is gathering momentum across Europe against the backdrop of a broader trend – eco shaming.

While the act of shaming has negative connotations, the purpose of eco shaming is to produce positive outcomes. Trend-Monitor’s own research, Behind the Bathroom Door, which followed 50 householders in 2018 as they undertook various bathroom tasks, highlighted how entrenched water-wasting habits are.

Respondents showed a concern for environmental issues, yet in the privacy of their own bathrooms without anyone watching, it became evident that consumers are wasting more water than ever before.

So is the latest trend for publicly calling out wasteful behaviour a necessary way to change damaging habits?

The flip side to ‘flygskam’ is ‘tagskryt’, which means ‘train brag’. While the act of bragging also has negative associations, focusing on acknowledging and praising those choosing to take the train instead of a plane is in itself a more positive approach.

Encouraging positive behaviour is also at the heart of Dutch carrier KLM’s latest marketing campaign, which calls on people to ‘fly responsibly’ in a bid to highlight the company’s commitment to making aviation more environmentally sustainable.

While this could potentially have been an own goal, the brand has successfully drawn attention to the fact that it is committed to making on-board catering more sustainable, and is working towards a zero-emissions ground operation. ‘We all have to fly every now and again,’ it says. ‘But next time, think about flying responsibly’.

Whether it’s down to #flygskam or #tagskryt, figures reported by the BBC show that Swedish airport operator Swedavia AB saw year-on-year passenger numbers drop across its 10 airports in the first three months of 2019.

Whether jet-setting stars are themselves ditching private jets and cutting back on the number of flights they take remains to be seen. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have, however, bought themselves an Audi E-Tron electric car.

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