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Light bulb moment

Light bulbs have gotta go, and someone needs to make us care, says Lezlie Lowe.

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And in a flash, there goes Edison's incandescent bulb.

OK, the flash part's exaggeration. In fact, this new Tory green scheme is too little too late—it doesn't take effect until 2012 and it'll only quash six million tonnes of greenhouse pollution annually; we need to delete way more than that to meet our Kyoto targets.

Me, I'm all for the death of incandescent bulbs. They're the staggeringly inefficient SUVs of the lighting world—most of their energy is expended in the form of heat, not light, and we need to be forced out of our reliance on them.

What makes the ban bad policy is that there's no federal marketing campaign to make people fall in love with the idea.

And we need that. The light from compact fluorescent bulbs—the energy efficient replacement—makes any room look like the guest lounge in the cave of the Grinch who stole Christmas. No one wants that. And certainly not when the federal government isn't telling us that we should want it.

We need to be convinced to embrace change. And by convinced, I mean sold on it—kind of like Conserve Nova Scotia's April 30-launched It Starts With Me program to encourage the use of compact fluorescents—but nationwide.

Face it—we won't give up our conveniences and habits unless we're persuaded to do so by the wily marketing executives who made us love those habits in the first place. We're only going to take measures to decrease our impact on the planet if a marketing campaign says that's the thing to do.

Does that mean we're callow, careless consumers at heart? Yes. But frankly I don't care if my neighbour understands climate change and wants to do her part. If a marketing campaign gets her to compost, fix her leaky faucets and put her garden lights on a timer, I'm happy.

So where's the marketing campaign to make Canadians love Harper's green plan and start doing more on their own?

Well, I'll tell you. It was called the One Tonne Challenge and it was axed by the federal Tories in April 2006 as an early move in their on-going F-off to the environment.

The One Tonne Challenge was genius.

The commercials, featuring Rick Mercer, were irreverent and engaging. The goal behind the program was simple—each year every Canadian produces more than five tonnes of greenhouse gases and doing dumb-as-dirt things like checking your tire pressure once a month can help decrease your greenhouse pollution by a whole tonne. Easy.

Best of all was the competition principle. The One Tonne Challenge was a dare. And everyone loves a dare. Members of six focus groups who helped design the campaign in 2003 loved the idea of being asked to pony up to a goal—they called it "interesting and motivating."

No surprise—we're up to our knees in pop cultural adoration of challenges right now: working on our own (the 100-mile diet, the buy-nothing movement, CBC TV's recent IQ challenge play-along Test the Nation) or watching other people do it on shows like The Amazing Race.

The One Tonne Challenge was perfect. Simple, sleek and do-or-die important.

So, naturally, the Tories killed it.

But what they forgot in their from-on-high game plan to dismantle the One Tonne Challenge and other federally funded community initiatives to support simple environmental changes is one big reality about Canadians. We are rabid consumers. Dog-like in our frenzy for a slick sales pitch. And if the Tories aren't going to bother with the sell, then Canadians aren't going to buy.

What’s in your lamp? Email: lezliel@thecoast.ca

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