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Interesting eco-trends that may impact Kenya's new businesses

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As we start a new decade and marvel at services that ease our busy urban lifestyles, there are already shifts on the horizon that may come to impact on many industries in Kenya.

A few weeks ago Jane Marriott, the British High Commissioner to Kenya, tweeted about visiting the UK where she would enjoy gluten-free pizza and “the privilege of tap water.” It sparked quite a bit of discussion in the Kenya side.

For years there have been talks about climate change and global warming. And now the changing times are apparent with the fires across Australia, there has been unusually heavy rainfall and cyclones in Africa, while in Moscow, which had its warmest winter in 130 years, authorities dumped fake snow on the streets to appease residents during the Christmas season.

So some people are making more changes in their lives to reduce their footprint on the environment. They ride bicycles, use trains and do not take a taxi, as they know that the CO2 emissions for a single ride are much larger than if they ride on a train.

They are taking small steps because they recognise that their actions may have an impact. One study estimated that New York disposes of four million cup lids every day and the world goes through 600 billion disposable cups every year. So eco-conscious people now carry cups to the coffee shop and have them filled with their favoured beverage.

They are switching to using tablets of toothpaste and bars of shampoo, and generally avoid all products, such as bottled water, that are sold in single-use containers, or wrapped in plastic.


The site Trendwatching cited Green Pressure, in which people move from just being concerned about their eco-status to “eco-shaming” others, as one of the trends to watch in 2020.

Consumers are now putting green pressure on brands and corporations to change. Groups are organising “carbon neutral” challenges and asking organisations to audit their emissions and commit to reducing them in measurable, specific ways. Organisations are mapping out their supply chains, and a recent edition of Italian Vogue featured photographs by artists who produced their work without travelling or shipping clothes.

Some hotels now arrange for guests to rent outfits for a day to reduce their travel luggage. Some buses in Singapore have garden roofs where plants are grown and athletes at this year’s Olympic Games will ride around Tokyo in electric buses. Restaurants are doing away with plastic and straws and Kenya banned plastic bags.

Though air travel contributes just two percent of all the carbon emissions, there is now a move to shame flying called “flygskam” and KLM responded with a campaign asking its passengers to “fly responsibly” and consider using Skype instead of going to meetings and taking high-speed trains instead of short flights across Europe.


What will the future look like? Some of these trends seem like unreasonable fads by people in wealthier countries but they could become economically scary in future. In this insular world that has seen rising anti-immigrant waves, you may see countries move to deter more immigration not just of people, but also of goods and services.

Will Valentine’s Day roses, and avocado fruits, from Kenya be considered in bad taste because of the flight distances they cover? Might Kenya get fewer tourists? Places like Amsterdam, Phuket, Venice and Barcelona are working to reduce their tourist numbers during peak periods. The Faroe Islands now close on some weekends so that only selected ‘voluntourists’ can come and work to restore its popular locations.

Virtual and augmented reality applications are becoming more sophisticated at enabling people to simulate real-life experiences, like walking with dinosaurs or visiting ancient Egypt, right from their homes, at no cost. Conservationists may also one day decide that places like Lamu or the Maasai Mara should take a break or restrict the numbers of tourists at peak periods and give the wildlife and the habitat a holiday.

Twitter: @bankelele

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