A few weeks ago, Daniel Goleman spoke at the Brower Center on ecoliteracy, the need for strong community standards, and education/knowledge as the cure for our ills.
An appreciative Berkeley audience gave him many ohhs and ahhs. Apparently, Goleman is quite the rockstar among eco-groupies. (They love The Story of Stuff, which is flawed agit/prop.)
I have heard about Goleman's ideas on eco-literacy and the impact that one person's change can have among a group of people. (I remembered his example of stopping to help a man, at which point a bevy of New Yorkers stopped, perhaps saving the man from hospitalization from hunger and dehydration...)
Goleman is a big fan of "knowledge is power" and spoke fondly of goodguide, a service that helps consumers choose among products. He is also a fan of life-cycle analysis, the process that identifies the "footprint" of a product from its raw materials, the machines used to assemble it, the shipping required to move it, etc.
(My favorite example of LCA shows that a steel water bottle does not "beat" plastic bottles until it's been used 500 times. How many of those are on your shelf?)
Although I am a big fan of education/information/etc.,* I think it is only effective for the 20 percent of people who care.** For the other 80 percent, the solution is PRICE, i.e., the "right" thing is the "cheap" thing. That's why I favor a carbon tax, higher prices for water, etc.***
Forget the goodguide -- just make "bad" things more expensive (through taxes on "bad") and let the market take care of things. Read Hayek to understand why.
Bottom Line: Ecoliteracy is a luxury. For the rest of us, I recommend eco-pricing.
* Oh, and let's not even get into problems with bribes and greenwashing. Just because a company is non profit does not mean that its employees will not lie and cheat for "the greater good" (or their good).
** My "20/80 Rule" is shorthand for an idea; I have no idea of actual shares...
*** I also think that prices are more accurate than activists, who may highlight a product that's en vogue (KleenKanteen is the new Fiji water) instead of sustainable. Better ideas are adopted much more quickly with prices.