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A Sustainable Design Blog

Consume Less, Sell More

Is Sell, Baby, Sell becoming the new Drill, Baby, Drill? Are the most forward thinking companies trying to sell more by selling less? In an age where every company is ‘green’ and has the challenge of showing that they care, it seems that the ultimate show of compassion is helping consumers regulate their own consumption.

I opened up FastCoDesign.com this morning to see this article on student Emily Brownson's packaging design for Frugo, a ficticious juice company. Aside from being gorgeous, it addresses the problem of portion control – something that the entire American populace seems to struggle with. Much like packaging for Act mouthwash, you squeeze this bottle and fill up the upper compartment with juice to create a perfectly portioned cup. No pre-packaged juice boxes using excess materials, just a smarter design to the common juice bottle.

So why is this a revolutionary concept? Well for one thing, as Marion Nestle points out repeatedly, most food companies care more about selling you more food than about your expanding waist line. So you won't find many food companies that tell you to eat less. The few that do often do so at the expense of the environment by stuffing boxes full of unrecyclable individual baggies. So making single-serving environmentally friendly is a relatively unexplored field.

The second thing I noticed is that this idea of encouraging responsible portion/consumption runs along the same lines as the most audacious marketing campaign most have seen, Patagonia's Don't Buy This Jacket campaign. By encouraging people to not buy a Patagonia product and instead reuse, repair, or recycle their tired garments, Patagonia boldly showed their commitment to environment above profits. They cemented their relationship with loyal fans and brought in a whole host of new values-driven consumers who suddenly felt that Patagonia's often high price tag was something that they wanted to support. Especially if they only have to do it in moderation.

So will we see many companies jumping onto this consume-less-waste-less bandwagon? Unlikely. Even organic food companies we speak with will say things like "I want people to pratice portion control and eat healthy, but I'm not going to stop them if they want to buy more!" Nor should they, since consumers wouldn't be able to buy organic products if companies didn't focus on selling. But the bravest amongst those companies would be wise to encourage their customers to consume less, even when they buy more. It's a way to show your clients that you are also willing to put your money where your mouth is and practice the sustainability you preach. If your company truly has compassion, this may be one of the best ways to show it.

Picture by Emily Brownson

Jennifer Stewart is the Office Manager and wanna-be organizational psychologist at Modern Species. For more posts from her, click here.

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They make the design.- Charles Eames