Earth Day ’08 is over. It’s time to get ready for next year. By all accounts 2009 will be “Earth Year” as all aspects of life are now increasingly examined for their impact on the environment. You will want to photograph iconic eco-products as well as using them as props in produced shoots. These are products that signal their eco-friendliness by arriving in a new package or shape or design that shouts out: I CARE ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT.
A tipping point has been reached: ‘green’ products are now status symbols rather than signaling membership in the ugly sandal crowd. The era of conspicuous consumption has been replaced by conspicuous non-consumption. According to Trend Watching, “…we’ve gone from ECO-UGLY (ugly, over-priced, low-performance, unsavory yet eco-friendly versions of the ‘real thing’) to ECO-CHIC (eco-friendly stuff that actually looks as nice and cool as the less sustainable originals) to now ECO-ICONIC:"Eco-friendly goods and services sporting bold, iconic markers and design, helping their eco-conscious owners show off their eco-credentials to their peers.
At the heart of ECO-ICONIC is a status shift…many consumers are eager to flaunt their green behavior and possessions because there are now millions of other consumers who are actually impressed by green lifestyles.”
Real change in society is made on a large scale when it becomes enviable to be associated with change. I’d like to think that I prefer natural cleaning products because of my consciousness as a green consumer rather than because of what my neighbors might think of me if they spy a polluting product in my grocery cart. But…I had household cleaner on my list on my first trip to the market after reading “Eco-Iconic”. My store only stocked one ‘green’ cleaner: it was produced by a company known for traditional, polluting products and was packaged in a bottle resembling the bleach bottle that was closely associated with their brand. Together the brand and the packaging sent me elsewhere to buy cleaning supplies. For all I know the contents were ‘greener’ than the one I found in another store. But the packaging sent a message of "same old/same old".
Because all objects in an image send messages to the viewer, you could pepper your shoots with hints of eco-consciousness. Leave the plastic water bottle out of your sports shoots. Replace it with the cool new metal canteens and bottles that have gained prominence since the brouhaha over B.P.A. and other chemicals in plastic. Kids ‘sippy cups’ come in metal. Rubber, latex or silicone teething rings and pacifiers could be shown rather than plastic ones.
Replace popular plastic toys you use as props. Substitute cloth sock monkeys, wooden toys and show children engaged in outdoor games and sports. You’ll avoid some trademark issues too and your images will be more useful over time as awareness of the problems of plastic increase.
Feature an electric or hybrid auto in the next production that calls for a car. (Take care to avoid those pesky trademark problems though).
Fashion has gone green too. Several sneaker companies have easily recognizable shoes made from recycled materials. Unfortunately for stylists these shoes are branded with trademarks. Select earth-toned colors in fabrics without trademarks for model's clothing in eco-aware photography.
We all know what the new light bulbs look like. See one in a lamp and there is an immediate connection to energy saving. Seek out other objects that convey the messages: I’m recycled or I’m eco-savvy! Prop sets with recycled goods such as shown in the close-up of the rug in the shot here.
Keep your research going by keeping up to date with new products for sustainable living. Look here and here for lists of products.
A site with the upfront name treehugger will send you looking for goods such as the umbrella that you can recycle if you don't leave it on the subway. (This could solve the well-known problem of the Tokyo lost and found department that receives in excess of 300,000 umbrellas annually.)
Trashy fashion tips are discussed here and here's the scoop on the bad stuff in plastic bottles