Copenhagen and Eco-Tinis: Faux Green and the Real Thing

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on December 13, 2009

I stayed at the URBN Hotel in Shanghai recently, a carbon-neutral place that is very green. The recycled, reused woods are beautiful and they plant trees in Mongolia to offset the use of energy. Very sustainable. Very chic. Perhaps too chic. They serve Eco-Tinis at the GreenRoom bar at the URBN. It’s a “fresh-fruit” martini and you get one free if you buy one from 6PM to 8PM.

I’m not into fresh fruit martinis, only ones with olives, so it didn’t appeal. Nor did the smoking section in the lounge of the URBN. So in Asia, as in the US and Europe, we’re into an era of hype and compromise when it comes to sustainability. Green marketing is sometimes bigger than green values.

This was often the case in the winners of the many contests I observed in my swing through Singapore, China and Korea and in projects throughout the region. There is a very good and loud conversation about global warming and sustainability taking place in Asia. But the execution of truly sustainable projects and products is still spotty. Putting trees into vast new urban developments often qualified in contests as sustainable. OK. Building new eco-cities on old marshland qualified as sustainable. Hmmmm…. Making electric scooters and cars is defined as sustainable. I agree, but what about generating all that extra electricity from coal fired plants for those electric cars and scooters? Not so good.

At least the discussion in Asia about the tradeoffs between sacrificing for sustainability and living a decent life are perhaps more open and honest than the one taking place in the streets of Copenhagen and in the West in general. Opposition to wind farms off the coast of Nantucket because they may spoil the view appears to be sillier than debates in China over the tradeoffs between pollution and ending poverty.

Reader Comments

Perry Goldschein, Sustainability Communications

December 14, 2009 10:24 PM

Good point! Everything is truly relative...

The importance of the number of conversations, themselves, can't be overestimated. More people are talking about sustainability in more ways, about more aspects of business and living than ever before. That's good news. At my firm, we like to say that the sustainability dialogue and substance each informs the other.

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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