Banal Environmentalism: lessons from the ‘light green’ masses

Posted on: October 4, 2009


Ryan Cunningham’s dissertation explores Banal Environmentalism: Defining and Exploring an Expanded Understanding of Ecological Identity, Awareness, and Action.”  He argues for:

“a theoretical understanding of ecologically-aware agency which is independent of the overt political activism of past environmental movements, and instead relies on individual consumer decisions made in the context of the mediated environment and driven by an everyday identity of banal environmentalism.”

Cunningham quotes Adam Vaughan (then editor of eco-product review website who wrote that he:

“characterizes his most promising readers as ‘light green,’ defined as either ‘positive choosers’ or the ‘conveniently conscious’ individuals who he believes comprise two-thirds of the U.K. population.”

There are a few key lessons to learn from the ‘light green’ examined in the construction of Cunningham’s hypothesis of ‘banal environmentalism,’ for advocacy groups, marketers and others that seek to reach out to citizens:

  1. Organisations seeking to influence behaviour should not weight marketing or other activity more specifically at specialist communities or publications – as “whether individual media connectors are encountering energy efficiency on the nightly news or in a highly specialized publication about wind turbines appears to have little significant bearing on the extent to which they agree with narrative citizenship values or express those values through consumption decisions and intentions.”
  2. The idea of a passive, apolitical citizenship can be challenged if one looks at consumptive behaviour patterns around special interest areas in addition to ‘traditional political activity’ – “statistically significant evidence that narrative ecological citizenship values correlate strongly with measures of mediation and consumptive practice but independently of traditional political issue engagement.”
  3. The Social Object, in this case environmentalism, was more important than locality as an indicator of behaviour –”respondents’ locations ultimately varied independently of most of the key indicators of banal environmentalism.” This demonstrates that virtual culture can transcend ethnic and national lines and form just as well, transnationally, around subject areas.

green people image by stringberd


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