Sustainability is green, right? Hands holding a tiny globe or seedlings growing from a tiny amount of soil on the palm of the hand are the first images that come to mind when thinking about sustainability. It means grass and trees, circles and round things such as apples that are reminiscent of the earth´s shape. Sustainability is sprouting things. Its arrows in a circular formation and a green frog sitting on a leaf. On a more technological level it becomes windmills and solar panels. Often it is wheat growing on a field, bright sunflowers, clear skies and raindrops on a leaf of grass. It is a picture of children happily laughing and running on a field. It´s a woman sitting on a green field working on her laptop on a crystal clear day. And many, many times, it includes hands.
We know all these images of sustainability. Googling sustainability and hitting the images button you get exactly that. Everything is green. Interestingly, you still get a few pictures of the good old light bulb symbolizing innovation and invention, it may take a while before we think of LED-lights lighting up at the a-ha!-moment. But the spiraling energy saving lamps are making their way into our collective subconscious, slowly but surely.
It is hard to think how else might you transmit sustainability in images. When VR wanted to emphasize their services as a sustainable alternative they simply changed their traditional red corporate color to green. Simple as that. A little bit of paint and voila!
I wish we had a wider palette of sustainability imagery. True, the worn items and even a little bit shabby things with peeling paint are sustainably trendy in the vintage circles. Recycling is making even less than perfect things acceptable. That is nice. I just wish that the color palette would be a little bit wider. And maybe include some muted colors. Because sustainability is not always just simple brightness, happiness and bliss. Definitely communicating sustainability is not. If something, it is a dense and a little bit scary jungle, where you very easily loose your way and sight of the horizon as you listen to the eerie sounds of strange birds in the treetops somewhere above, invisible if the mist of tropical humidity. You need a machete to make your way, but are afraid to use it – in case you accidently cut the lifeline of some precious and nearly extinct rare plant, which might carry the possibility of saving the human kind with its ancient genes. Communicating sustainability, it´s a job for coolheaded and educated Indiana Joneses.