I’m a fan of the much-maligned checklist. Sometimes it helps clarify a situation and sometimes, well, it makes it a little murkier. And that’s when your optimism or pessimism provides the tie-breaker.
So here are three reasons I’m optimistic about 2011 and three reasons I’m pessimistic.
Thumbs Up #1: New product introductions are up. According to Mintel, more than 40,800 new products hit the shelves last year, up from 38,738 in 2009. That means that innovation is still alive in America – and it also signals that there’s an end in sight for our economic upheaval. As author Richard Florida notes in his book The Great Reset, periods of economic turmoil spark great creativity that ultimately lead to a revived economy and scores of new and more innovative products.
Thumbs Down #1: The end of the 30% tax credit for energy efficiency home improvements. It’s hard enough already to get consumers interested in energy efficiency, and without financial incentives it’s only going to get harder. As we’re hearing in focus groups around the country, many Americans are growing increasingly more resistant to spending money on energy efficiency or changing their habits. There’s a feeling of “Look, I’m already doing everything I can, so back off” that’s pervading the country, despite the fact that most Americans actually have a long way to go to reach energy efficiency in their homes.
Thumbs Up #2: States are taking the lead in energy efficiency. To help fill the void created by the rolled-back federal tax credits, several states are increasing what they spend on energy efficiency through rebates, retrofits and creating stricter building codes.
Thumbs Down #2: Problems across the country with smart meter rollouts. From privacy concerns to health concerns, claims of artificially inflated bills and inaccurate data to class action lawsuits, utility companies are encountering more than they bargained for – and creating increased consumer resistance. What’s needed is smarter planning for smart meter initiatives.
Thumbs Up #3: Consumers are interested in smart meters – in theory. According to our soon to be-released Utility Pulse study, 61% of Americans say they’re interested in smart meters.
Thumbs Down #3: Belief in global warming continues to slide. We’ve seen this in several of our studies over the last several years, and now it’s dipped below 50%. Though we see interest in buying green products continuing upwards, low belief in global warming could indicate a low sense of personal responsibility to make environmentally friendly behavior changes. And buying products is likely not be enough to turn some of our challenges around; behaviors must change as well.
There are so many reasons to be optimistic about larger sustainability trends, and seemingly so many reasons to be pessimistic about energy efficiency. As an inherent optimist, I’d love to feel more positive about energy efficiency – so I’m wide open to hearing your reasons for feeling optimistic or pessimistic about energy efficiency (or sustainability) this year.
I’m optimistic that I’ll hear from you.