Green Crystal-Balling 2006

We're looking forward to a new year of exciting changes in product design, life style, public policy, and global trade. Of course we can't predict specific outcomes, or offer testable metrics, but signs of coming changes are already in evidence. One likely trend is more professional investors jumping on the climate change bandwagon. Take Goldman Sachs for example: "Goldman pledged to invest $1bn in renewable energy projects, establish an environmental policy think tank and research the environment. But the firm’s biggest effort to date has been in expanding its carbon emissions trading business". All it takes is one investment bank taking a profit on emission trades to create a follow-the-leader procession of other banks ready to invest. There's more. A Walk On The Silly Side. 2006 will be the year that local news stations focus on disputes over alternative energy projects and green buildings. Tax lobbyists will claim that spending extra capital to continuously save 8% to 10% on energy bills is unwarranted, and push local governments to drop LEED building project proposals. Pundits will proclaim that LEED architecture is ugly. We'll laugh.

Sleeping Giant. The popularity of Green Energy buying will continue to increase. A recent consumer survey indicates significant unmet demand, while awareness of offerings is growing. "A national survey showed that 3.4 percent of U.S. consumers said they currently participate in their electric utility's renewable or green-power program, and an additional 38 percent said they are likely or very likely to do so".

Small is Sexy. For the first time in decades, small cars will re-emerge as an important automotive marketing segment. TreeHugger writer Mike has been intensively covering the nascent "small car" movement and more could be coming around the turn.

Think Tank State of Mind. Climate skeptics are showing signs of retreat from their main strategy of pointing out scientific uncertainty. In 2006, we expect new talking points.
* 'Dire economic outcomes will result from any mandatory cutback goals or deadlines'. All conversations on this topic close with the framing phrase "committing economic suicide".
* ' Free Market research will solve the problem'. This is repeated endlessly without ever addressing the what, when, why, how or where of what they have in mind.
* 'Adaptation is the best response'; again, without the "what" chain of questions being addressed.

"BambooU" On the material side, look for lots of celebrity fashions made of Panda food. Supple is the operant adjective.

Something for Everyone. We expect consumers to buy fewer canned and bottled beverages. People on limited budgets who want to lose weight will come to appreciate how much cash is wasted on non-nutricious convenience drinks. Recycling rates will continue to fall, just as they have for several years, while personal and environmental redemption will be driven by falling disposable incomes and a collective desire for better health rather than satisfying the ritual need to fill the curbside recycle box.

Before we go, here's a short list of "anti-frames" we're thinking on. Maybe you've got some better ones?

* Climate change-associated damage will drag down business productivity and slow global economic growth by trashing ports.
* Sexy designs are good for the environment,national economies, and customers.
* Constructive adaptation is what good design and green marketing is all about.
* Research? We're not waiting.