2008 Consumer Trends: Green is the New Everything

The crystal ball-gazers at Trendwatching.com have come up with eight consumer trends for the eighth year of this millennium in an attempt to pinpoint the movements, ideas and products that will scratch an itch for consumers this year; as with some of the other trends they've spotted, there's something TreeHuggers can take from just about each one.

1. Status spheres Sure, there's the "Traditional Sphere" and "Transient Sphere", but, this year, there's finally an "Eco Sphere" -- that's right, with "millions of consumers now actively trying to greenify their lives, status in the eco-sphere is both more readily available, and increasing in value." Consumers can look for companies making an effort to "Make it green, make it effortless, make it visible if not bold if not iconic, and don't hesitate to point out your competitor's polluting alternatives."

2. Premiumization is what happens in a society where the chopstick bra and drinking bottled water to combat drought can co-exist: it's all about fancy-schmancy versions of everything. "No industry, no sector, no product will escape a premium version in the next 12 months," and, in the past, this section probably would have included the "green" set, but no more; TreeHugging has gone mainstream and all the examples here are truly over-the-top. Look no further than Bling H2O for proof that being green is no longer about "premiumization."

3. Snack culture is "catering to consumers’ insatiable craving for instant gratification," and it's not limited to food, though that's probably the most sentient example. It sounds bad (and some of it is -- McDonalds' remodeling with lime green furniture makes the list) but there's a green way to snack, too: "Eco-concerns, design savvy and an (urban) willingness to regard cars as a utility instead of the ultimate status symbol will lead to a neverending stream of small-car innovations. Keep an eye on the company who kick-started most of this: Smart." Now that they're finally bringing the diminutive Fortwo to the US, you can finally snack when you drive without guilt.

4. Online oxygen supports many of us who need online access like we need the air we breathe; that's good for TreeHugger (we want everyone to read us), and, though it's a bit of an odd-sounding pairing, a more online-acclimated world can help you reconnect with your local community, using the vast power of connectivity to effectively shrink the world and help you be a locavore (or other community involvement-related aspiration). Walk Score is a great example of how breathing online oxygen can help you live better close to home.

5. Eco-iconic is the green jackpot for 2008 trend observers; the "ECO trend has moved from ECO-UGLY (ugly, over-priced, low performance alternatives to shiny 'traditional sphere' products and services) to ECO-CHIC (eco-friendly stuff that actually looks as nice and cool as the less responsible version) to ECO-ICONIC in 2008: "'Eco-friendly goods and services sporting bold, iconic design and markers, that help their eco-conscious owners to visibly tout their eco-credentials to peers.'" That's right: "When designing your 2008 or 2009 eco-product line, don't mirror what's already out there in the non-eco world, but be bold, original, and yes, iconic. Whether it's cars, buildings or detergent bottles." Prius owners are multiplying and making a real difference in the way things are made; Toyota is listening and you can take these and other products to the icon bank from here on out.

6. Brand butlers are the new commercial. Consumers are wising up to some traditional marketing schemes, so, instead of being hounded by annoying sales pitches, consumers can expect to be "assisted" into supporting what brands stand for. "Think baby food or diaper brands opening a lounge area, including diaper-changing facilities and microwaves, for parents and their offspring at a major airport or in malls. Or a bank installing secure, high-tech lockers next to the beach, so beachgoers can safely store their belongings when going for a swim or walk." There is huge opportunity to mesh "brand-butlering" with "eco-iconic" products and services to bring consumers from icons of green to passing the good word along.

7. MIY | Make It Yourself is something near and dear to TreeHugger (like when we made our own soap) and our sister site over at Planet Green, which is dedicated to all things action-oriented and green and has tips on making everything from yummy soup to a solar-powered boom box. While online content (like blogs and photostreams) have been happening for awhile now, 2008 is the time it comes back into the physical world; with services like Ponoko and ideas like 3D printing coming in to vogue, soon there will be no reason to have anything shipped from anywhere; you can design it yourself, pick it up down the street, or just print it out in your home. Making is the new buying in 2008.

8. Crowd-mining: "When co-creating, co-funding, co-buying, co-designing, co-managing *anything* with 'crowds', the emphasis in 2008 will move from just getting the masses in, to mining those crowds for the rough and polished diamonds." This is open source on a grand scale, taking the collective brains of everyone and the collective pulse of any given group, to create ideas and stuff that helps everyone live better. An example? How about nvohk, the first community-managed, eco-friendly, surf-inspired clothing company. If two heads are better than one, imagine what that could mean when 20,000 get together.

Will you be "trendy" in 2008? Which of these trends will really catch on, transcending the title and sticking around as a real lifestyle? We'd argue that green is already there, but only the next 11 months and two weeks will tell for sure. ::Trendwatching via ::Design Sojourn

Tags: Bottled Water | Consumerism