Sequoia forest

JWT Predicts Green Trends for 2011

Updated guidelines for green claims will be keeping companies honest next year.

The green movement will continue to impact all levels of consumption ─ from toilet paper purchases on up to luxury cars. Watch as green gets stricter, with wider adoption of new standards for buildings and updated guidelines for green claims. On a macro level, the emphasis will be placed on protecting the world’s forests and making city infrastructure smarter, according to JWT, a global advertising agency.

Americans may see more accurate and detailed green claims next year after the Federal Trade Commission publishes the first update to its “Green Guidelines” in 12 years. Under the proposed guidelines, manufacturers touting a product as “green” or “eco-friendly” will have to link those claims to specific attributes (e.g., a 100 percent recyclable package).

Forests are capturing the world’s attention again. 2011 is the United Nations’ International Year of Forests, and forests were central to COP16 in Mexico. The World Wildlife Fund recently released a document file format (WWF) that cannot be printed (the tagline: “Save as WWF, Save a tree”). The REED+ Partnership, launched last May with the goal of “slowing, halting, and eventually reversing deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries,” had 71 nations on board by October and a pledge of $4 billion over the next two years.

Following the precedent of the electric Tesla Roadster, automakers are targeting eco-conscious drivers who like to motor in style and don’t mind price tags over $100,000. A first among luxury automakers, Mercedes-Benz is putting a four-cylinder engine (small, cheaper, lower emissions) in its top-line S-class sedan for the European market. Volkswagen’s Bentley Continental GT Coupe will offer the option of a V8 engine (cleaner than the standard 12-cylinder), while Porsche and BMW have plans for plug-in hybrid cars within two years; Porsche’s is slated to cost around half a million euros.

Consumers are increasingly interested in Energy Dieting but haven’t had an easy way to monitor how much energy their appliances and gadgets use. Now, design-friendly products are coming to market, from Belkin’s Conserve Insight device to GE’s Nucleus home energy manager. And as sales of plug-in hybrids and electric cars take off, home energy management will increasingly be linked to vehicles.

In an increasingly urbanized, congested world with an aging population, people will be less motivated or able to drive. So we’ll see forward-thinking automakers experiment with new models focused simply on moving people to their destinations. Daimler has both Car2go — a car-sharing program that uses its Smart cars, implemented in two cities so far — and Car2gether, a ridesharing app and website. Peugeot’s Mu is a rental/Zipcar-like service that offers a range of models, from scooters to vans. “We make cars and trucks today, but who knows?” Ford’s Bill Ford said in 2010 and described the automaker as a provider of “mobility solutions.”

Services including Spride Share in San Francisco, RelayRides in Boston and San Francisco, WhipCar in London, and DriveMyCar in Australia match car owners whose vehicles are idle with people who need wheels. As these person-to-person services demonstrate solutions to the obvious obstacles — devices can be installed to prevent theft, novel insurance agreements are used.

As scientists develop microchips capable of being powered by small movements or temperature differences, we’ll slowly see new types of gadgets that require no battery or power plug, cutting power consumption. For example, Microsoft has created a prototype of a peppermill-like remote control that’s powered by the turning motion required to use it.

With the fastest urban boom in history and a push for more sustainable living, the coming years will see huge investments in smart infrastructure (embedding digital communication technologies into the framework of power systems). Worldwide, at least 90 smart grid pilots are being implemented as the United States, Japan, China, EU countries and other governments focus investment and development efforts on these technologies. The China Electricity Council reports that installation of smart meters will be worth $3.1 billion in 2011 — just a taste of what’s to come: IDC estimates the value of the smart infrastructure business at $122 billion over 2010 and 2011 alone.

Look for ambitious environmentalists to push past established standards like LEED by taking on more stringent requirements, such as those advocated by the International Living Building Institute or the Passive House Institute. The ILBI, which awarded its first certifications in 2010, bills its Living Building Challenge as “the world’s most rigorous green building performance standard.”

Toilet paper is undergoing its biggest change in a century. Kimberly-Clark’s Scott Naturals is coming out with a tube-free version (currently being tested in select U.S. stores), and we’ll see more brands follow suit in a bid to better compete on the green front.