Eco Shaming

2019 is drawing to an end and as certain as death and taxes, trend reports are on their way. In fact some of them have already been released. We tend to keep our finger on the design world’s pulse and, keeping in line with that principle, we did a little bit of research and chose 5 of the trends we think are debated the most. We have, however, chosen to change the format and rather than publish one long blog post detailing every trend, we decided to honor each one with its own short form - the first of which is one of controversy, eco-shaming.


Once upon a time we didn’t understand the Earth, and didn’t care much about it. Nowadays, we understand it but still don’t care about it. Those in power don’t, to be more precise. Awareness of the public has shot through the roof with the influence of public figures like Greta, and the spread of news through social media - to the point of global protests. The culmination of this awareness comes in the form of eco shaming - the act of shaming, deriding, and sometimes even insulting people for not being eco-friendly. This didn’t come about on its own though.

Look back 5-10 years and it is easy to notice the trendy, high-class nature of eco-friendly products. Tesla’s Roadster, Adidas’ limited edition recycled sneakers, and eco-friendly cuisine were all expensive and, by nature, considered tokens of upper class. In other words, they were the currency of eco-status. Choosing to be environmentally friendly seemed a pricey endeavor. Fast forward to today and the market is flooded with eco- friendly alternatives at prices the common man can easily afford. Economies of scale worked its magic and caring for the environment went mainstream. What’s in the mainstream easily starts to become the status quo and when that’s the case, opting out becomes shameful.

Eco shaming started in the commercial world where companies, in an effort to prove their eco friendliness, came up with creative ways to nudge their customers into making environmentally healthier decisions. For example, Mother London came up with plastic bags that had shadows of items you would not want to be seen carrying stenciled on. They came in many flavors such as drug addict, sex addict, and terrorist (Shame-Inducing Plastic Bags : Mother London). Ujishower created a shower head that lit up in different colors depending on your water usage (Shame-Inducing Shower Heads : Uji Shower Head). Sometimes these ideas backfired (for example, the bags became collector items) but sometimes they actually had a positive impact on shoppers’ decisions. Unfortunately, when individuals took up eco shaming, the results weren’t as cheerful.

If you were to look up eco shaming now, you will find dozens of articles listing out its negative effects. People anonymously shaming one another for using straws, or plastic bags has become commonplace. Ironically those who publicly put forth an effort to raise awareness get shamed for the smallest missteps. This in turn drains their motivation forcing them to question whether it is worth it at all. A nudge in the right direction mutated into a cry of derision.

We hope eco shaming stays true to its roots and remains a subtle, but worthy, judgement of character based on morals such as, let’s say, silently giving our date a grade based on their treatment of the waiter. Whatever its destiny, eco shaming will definitely dominate the social media echo chambers in 2020.