While taking a shower today I was thinking about the difficulties of putting sustainable consumption into practice. While the wonderfully hot water was rinsing off the last lathers of shampoo from my hair, I contemplated on my water usage and generally the choices I as an inhabitant of a housing unit am making in my everyday life, often without noticing.
I am quite sure that on the housing association and even on individual inhabitants level sustainability and sustainable development are considered as good things, especially if it means saving money for the owners of the apartments, but how well does practice follow the principles? A few weeks ago I was pleasantly surprised that we got new containers for sorting out waste in the shared waste shed – it allows for much easier recycling than before. But then again, I see a lot of material thrown in wrong containers and even a lot that should not be there at all. Even though recycling has been made very easy for us, still not everybody embraces the opportunities. Maybe they don´t have enough knowledge or are simply slaves to their accustomed routines? It seems that even making recycling super easy seems not to be enough if individual mindscapes do not change. There has to be an incentive, a motivation for changing one´s behavior, a driving force behind the change – some sort of value to be had.
Similarly I thought about the water consumption. I wondered if the fact that the inhabitants water consumption is not monitored individually leads them to be more likely to take longer showers than in houses where you pay per usage? How likely are renters to lower their indoor temperatures if it doesn´t affect their utility costs? If the system does not monitor and produce immediate and tangible feedback for individuals on their sustainable or non-sustainable behavior, the ideals are likely to hang in the air. And if this is true for individuals, why wouldn´t it be the same for companies, and even whole industries? Out of sight, out of mind-attitude is easy for the conscience and helps in making immediate decisions. Here, I hope, is where sustainability marketing enters the picture. In the housing case, it would need to come from the maintenance company. And also they would need to get something in return. Hmm, I think I need another shower to think about this further. Tomorrow, when I have lost my squeky clean state!