Have you come across Flash mobs? These are events where a group of people assemble suddenly in public to sing, dance or provide some other form of entertainment, and then disperse as quickly as they assembled. They’re great fun, and you can find plenty of entertaining videos of flash mobs on the internet.
Flash mobs are purely for entertainment, but there is a similar event, known as a carrotmob, that has a definite purpose, which is to improve the environmental or social credentials of shops and businesses in a local area. We’re all familiar with the concept of boycotting certain stores or products when we are unhappy with their environmental or ethical performance. A good example is the very effective 1980s boycott of aerosols containing harmful CFCs. But although it may contribute to worthwhile changes, a boycott can be seen as negative, targeting things we don’t like and working against, rather than with, businesses. It relies on the stick rather than the carrot. By contrast, a carrotmob works with businesses to achieve positive change.
At its simplest, a carrotmob is a campaign where a group of people spend money to support a business that is making improvements that people care about. For example, in San Francisco, in one of the first carrotmobs, twenty-four shops bid against each other to attract the carrotmob, with the successful bidder committing 22% of the day’s takings to environmental improvements. On the day of the carrotmob, 300 shoppers spent over $9000, and the store owner spent over $2000 of this on improvements to lighting and hazardous waste disposal.
Carrotmobs are now taking place all over the world. They have been used to reduce the water footprint of a local café in Budapest, buy an energy efficient freezer for a food store in California, install energy efficient lighting in a shop in Antwerp, stop providing plastic carrier bags in a shop in Thailand, and create a vegetable patch and improve composting at a restaurant in Australia.
To organise your own carrotmob just choose an issue you care about, build a team to support the campaign, talk to local businesses to see who will take action, and then pick a time and date for the event. Possible issues include environmental improvements, increasing fair trade, increasing trade in organic, local or healthy food, boosting the local economy, and many more.
Is Diss ready for a carrotmob?