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Solving Climate Change the Steve Jobs Way

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Apple is hardly a beacon of environmental good practice, but that doesn't mean Steve Jobs didn't play his part in helping to find a solution to climate change.

Climate change does not have an awareness problem. It does, however, have a marketing problem. Plenty has been done to raise awareness, but very little has been done to effectively market green solutions to the general public.

Of course, the climate change problem is very simple to sum up: the human race is producing more and more carbon dioxide, therefore global temperatures are rising, therefore the earth will eventually no longer be a place that human beings are able to exist in. In a nutshell: "Hello dinosaurs and dodos, nice to meet you, we're the human race!"

It's the simplicity of this message that seems to make it the default when people try and talk to the public about sustainability.

The actions that individuals can take to help combat climate change are so much more difficult to summarise. This is because the behaviours that are causing us to produce too much carbon dioxide are wide ranging. Just think about all the ways you could waste energy in your home: washing clothes at unnecessarily high temperatures, sitting around in shorts and t-shirt with the heating pumping out to the max, re-boiling the kettle because you forgot to make your brew the first time it boiled. The list goes on, and that's before you've even put a foot outside your front door.

There is no one-size-fits-all way to discourage humans from behaving in these ways. In some cases, the free market, driven by the profit motive, can provide a way for the public to consume products in a less wasteful way. The iPod is a great example of this. By creating this product, Steve Jobs and Apple vastly reduced the demand for CDs, the plastic cases that they come in and the transportation that is required to take them to the shops.

Of course, product innovations such as the iPod won't always be the answer. For other behaviours, it's necessary to motivate the public to consume less, not just differently.

For some people, appeals to thrift might work. In these times of economic turmoil and rising energy prices, the financial motive for energy efficient homes has never been stronger. But when it comes to behaviour change, the solution is rarely as one-dimensional as that. Not everyone is motivated in the same way, and therefore not everyone cares about financial prudence.

Similarly, not everyone is equally empowered to change their behaviour. So reinsulating the loft to save money might float a homeowner's boat, but someone living in rented accommodation is less likely to know how their heating system works, or feel able to do much about it. They might, however, be persuaded to turn down their heating to a lower temperature if they can be convinced that having it too hot is drying out their skin and making them age prematurely (which it is).

The possible solutions to high-carbon behaviours are almost endless, but what almost all of them have in common is that they do not require the consumer to understand the problem they are helping to solve - just as people who bought the iPod probably did not know (or care) that they were reducing the demand for CDs.

The person who puts on a jumper so they can turn down their heating and protect their skin does not need to know how much CO2 they have saved - nor does the person who ditches the car for the bike because they want to be fitter, or the person who takes canvas bags to the supermarket because they have cooler designs and are more comfortable on the fingers than plastic ones.

Whether knowingly or not, Steve Jobs made us all accidental environmentalists, but that was never part of the marketing strategy. We all bought iPods because they were more convenient, beautifully designed and - crucially - because Apple managed to convince us that we would be happier with one than without.

We need to find more green solutions like this for a whole range of behaviours. This presents a much greater creative challenge than simply talking about melting ice caps, carbon calculators or slapping an "eco" label on something. It's time for us all to take inspiration from Steve Jobs and step up to this creative challenge.

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