While researching on various aspects of sustainable development I recently came across an acronym which people involved in the green movement have been tossing around for a while. I have been involved in the green movement but as a relative newcomer this acronym came as a surprise to me. So to avoid further suspense this acronym was none other than “LOHAS”. Coming up with new movements and trends it is impossible not to have new phrases and acronyms in our daily lexicon. Becoming a hottest trend within companies and consumers across the globe LOHAS stands for Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability.
Once I googled LOHAS I soon discovered that this term was coined in late 1990s. LOHAS refers to segment in the market that is focused on environment, healthy lifestyle, sustainable living and social justice. It incorporates the businesses and consumers alike. There are a number of industries, corporations, products and activities that are designed to be eco-friendly, sustainable and healthier for the planet as well as people. It can be seen as a growing movement where the LOHAS consumer keeps in mind the values and belief systems before making their purchase. A common example of this can be the emerging trend of organic food though its buying power is limited in the hands of a few. Moreover the LOHAS movement still needs to further assimilate in the markets not limited to few places and people.
Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability is built on the work of a sociologist Paul Ray who undertook extensive research in the mid 1990s in United States. He found out that 25 % of the US population could relate to the concepts of sustainability, health and social justice and how they desired to live their lives. The 25% of US population was termed as “Cultural Creatives” by Paul Ray describing them as leaders of cultural change. LOHAS defined the emergence of a global trend based on conscious choice in a wide range of industries. However it was difficult to define this cultural phenomenon from the market perspective. Encompassing things like organic foods, eco-tourism, alternative medicine as well as energy-efficient appliances and solar panels. LOHAS describes the marketplace for such products and services and the consumers who buy these.
It should be noted that the known LOHAS market is limited to few developed countries and it still needs to reach the developing world. The trend however has seeped into many places where a level of consciousness has pushed certain type of consumers to spend money on products that are produced in a sustainable way. Hence LOHAS besides being a market segment limited to few countries is a growing awareness where people worry about the environment and want their lifestyles to be eco-friendly. This has given rise to corporate social responsibility too, which didn’t exist few years ago, making corporations responsible for environmental protection during manufacturing and also looking after the workers’ rights.
Even today the big businesses fail at times for example the collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh that led to a loss of thousands of lives is a case in point. There are many other incidents both reported and unreported around the world that should be kept in mind when looking at the progress of Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability. This does not mean that we should undermine the little efforts but we have a long way to go.
When it comes to organic food which is just one aspect of LOHAS it should be noted that the organic products cater to a certain segment of society, those who can buy it. There must be an extra effort behind the production of organic food without using pesticides but it also limits the buyers. It would be great if healthier options are available to the consumers from various segments of the society depending on their income. The approach of catering the elite class will not save the world as the majority has the power to bring change not a small percentage of population. There is a need for policies that keep in mind the values and belief systems of LOHAS targeting a greater number of population, only then will it be fruitful.
It is not a secret that organic food helps protect the environment, minimize soil degradation and optimizes the productivity and biological diversity resulting in healthier lifestyles. But what about the higher cost of organic products? For some people eating organic food and buying organic products is not feasible as it costs more. Here in Pakistan there are barely few shops selling organic products and products like wheat and oil can be three times the price when labeled “organic”. To advocate the importance of buying organic products it is also important that they are sold at reasonable prices so that more people can make better choices. In some developed countries there might be more options to choose from keeping in mind the healthy choices and budget.
While ushering in spring, we can also think about growing our own food. There might be certain constraints but it is not impossible. While living in Germany I met a very interesting girl almost my age, in her early 20s, when I asked her whether she has a Facebook account so that I can add her when I leave. She said no, that not only came as a surprise to me rather it came as a shock. How can anyone not have an account on Facebook? But later I realized that she was very much living in the real world. Baking her own whole-wheat bread in the morning, it’s appetizing aroma spreading across the building to making her organic tea from the herbs picked from her kitchen garden. She had made a door bell herself too instead of an electric one. And yes I can’t forget borrowing her bicycle which was her favorite mode of transportation. Unlike me preferring a car to travel around and not caring where the food products are coming from, whether it is eco friendly or not. I was inspired to see her lifestyle which she developed out of love for mother nature nothing else, she didn’t know about LOHAS. Making sensible and conscientious choices is the responsibility of everyone.
Awareness has led to a lot of consumers paying attention to claims such as organic, green, eco friendly, environmentally safe and sustainably made. However it is easy to make a claim and difficult to prove it which leads to a lot of people misled about various environmental attributes associated with the products. The marketers have the responsibility to use correct terminology in packaging and promotion for the consumers to better understand it.
Just like trade commission operational in some countries to protect the interests of consumers, green guides should also be provided to consumers providing a list of definitions of terms like ozone friendly, biodegradable, carbon offsets , recycled and other related terms. The various certifications and seals are important only if they give you enough information and are backed by solid standards.
It boils down to the question, are you adopting LOHAS? Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability might be a swift growing consumer trend but are you really living LOHAS?
The big multinationals are claiming to go LOHAS such as The Body Shop or Cadbury. The Body Shop, founded in 1976 pioneered in volunteering where The Body Shop employees had to volunteer for a month about a cause they chose like fair trade or recycling etc. In many ways they paved a way for “conscious consumerism” movement. The Body Shop realizing that human rights and environmental responsibility are interlinked, to build a sustainable supply chain stepped up it’s efforts, focusing on promoting sustainable alternatives that can improve living and protect the forests too. Moreover the fair trade logo seen on some chocolate bars like Cadbury dairy milk’s bar means that the farmers from developing countries are looked after when it comes to them being fairly paid. Nike is also making organic sportswear and claims to become a responsible global citizen. Nike also adopted some good practices over a period of time when it realized the unfair work practices. Similarly Ford is producing hybrid SUVs. The big corporations everywhere should become part of the LOHAS market as it will not only let them join the green population trying to make a difference but can also help them boost their sales.
According to a research institute based in US known as Natural Marketing Institute nearly third of the US population adopts LOHAS values based on social concerns and environmental safety. Considering the world is not just comprised of US, Japan, Taiwan or Western Europe that are the recognized LOHAS markets. This global trend needs to have a greater outreach where businesses and governments are taking necessary steps to adopt LOHAS.
On an individual level creating awareness is a step forward. Learning about LOHAS, it’s concerns, priorities and values can also help people to make better choices. It does not only centre on buying green products rather by taking small steps like saving energy, reducing carbon footprint, recycling and saving water also makes you part of the Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability community.
Starting from personal development by seeking out new experiences and learning one can start taking interest in mind-body-spirit connections by taking yoga and meditation classes to exercising regularly. It is about seeing the connection between our own health and health of the environment. The small steps taken on an individual level can contribute to LOHAS. If we look at the mode of transport, depending on the vehicle an annual commute will release two to three tons of greenhouse gases. Using public transport or bicycle depending on the distance is a better choice. Bicycles have a tiny manufacture and carbon footprint. Again keeping in mind the deplorable infrastructure in some places and long distances people do end up using cars. But if you have an option to choose from, go for it. Simplifying one’s lifestyle is related to sustainable living focusing on what you need rather than what you want.
Growing your own food if you have enough space is also a positive step. Nothing tastes better than the vegetables from your own kitchen garden. Growing your own food gives a productive physical activity letting you distress yourself get fresh air and sunlight. It also enables to clear one’s head. When you grow your own food you don’t worry about the contamination and in the end seeing the seeds blossom under your care gives a sense of pride. It helps reduce wastage of food which we can’t afford in this era where many are without food and shelter. Even if you don’t have a backyard or a kitchen garden you can still grow your own food. By taking pleasure in this hobby while contributing positively to the environment is fulfilling and satisfying. At home one can save energy by switching off extra lights; we should admit that we do sometimes neglect that. Similarly recycling at home can be done by utilizing the empty bottles and jars for storage etc. We can also save water and avoid the wastage of water at homes. By taking these small yet valuable steps on an individual level enable us to contribute positively.
Embracing eco awareness and sustainable lifestyle has a positive impact on the people, communities and environment. Sustainable living besides seeking to optimize the use of natural resources also includes reuse. It is a system of living where people become producers rather than consumers only. It does take time and patience to practice a sustainable lifestyle. Passionate about saving the planet we can make it a reality. The only outcome of sustainable living is health.
Developing a sustainable living does require practice and time. With the passage of time these useful habits of sustainable lifestyle becomes a routine. I still sometimes use canned spinach from the grocery store when the season is not right for the homegrown spinach. I still eat fruits that I can’t grow myself. But whenever I switch off extra lights or give extra care when using water or recycle at home I take few steps closer to sustainable living. For my grandparents these practices were practically second nature. With the technological advances our generation first needs to unlearn and then learn to live sustainably. It will be a journey of learning things that are no longer common knowledge and have been nearly forgotten. It is true that we are learning with the passage of time. We have a long way to go but with awareness we can surely make it.
Time for LOHAS Quiz- How LOHAS Are You?
Take this quiz from the researchers at the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) to find out whether you’re living LOHAS. Answer the questions with rarely, sometimes or usually, then add your points to see which segment you’re in. If you’re response is rarely, give yourself 1 point; for sometimes, give yourself 2 points; for usually, score 3 points.
- I care about maintaining excellent physical health.
- I care about protecting the environment.
- I care about sustainable agriculture practices.
- I care about using renewable energy sources.
- I tell family and friends about the benefits of purchasing environmentally friendly products.
- I care about women’s issues.
- I care about social consciousness.
- I prefer to buy products from companies whose values are like mine.
- I like choosing environmentally friendly products and services.
- I’m willing to pay 20 percent more for environmentally friendly products.
26-30 Points: You’re a LOHAS consumer. You care deeply about the environment and society, and you act on those behaviors. You likely buy a lot of organic foods, drive a fuel-efficient car and live in an eco-friendly home. People look to you for advice and information on the environment and society.
20-25 Points: You’re a NOMADIC. You care about some of these issues but not all of them all of the time. You take action in some parts of your life but have not totally adopted a LOHAS lifestyle.
15-19 Points: You’re a CENTRIST. You are slightly more conservative than your LOHAS and NOMADIC peers. While some of these behaviors and ideas appeal to you, they are not top priorities in your life.
10-14 Points: You’re an INDIFFERENT. You are committed to other immediate concerns in your life and don’t think a great deal about the quality of the environment and society.