Which? maps out sustainable consumption blueprints for 2030

Waterless washing machines, rechargeable kids and handheld molecule scanners might be commonplace in a future world built on resource scarcity, collaborative consumption and immersive technology.

The concepts, dreamt up by Which? in association with influential think tank Forum for the Future, are intended to showcase how the consumer goods market might operate in 2030 for British people.

Research undertaken by both organisations reveals that consumers in 2030 are likely to be living in a world where slow growth and rising commodity prices have become the norm.

As a result, there will be less disposable income per household with essential goods taking up an increasing proportion of consumer spend.

This is likely to see the emergence of collaborative consumption in which people use new technologies to facilitate sharing, lending and renting of goods and services.

The study draws on detailed historical analysis of consumer trends from the mid-1950s to the present before modelling these trends forwards to 2030. The potential impact of behavioural shifts and uncertainties about the future were also taken into account to explore the practical implications for home life.

From this five products or services scenarios were mapped out that consumers might be buying in 2030. The principles of each will enable policy makers, businesses and brand leaders to think about the future in a systematic way, thus acting on consumer interests in the long term.

One of these centres on a waterless washing machine. This operates on a 100% clean, 1% water tariff system that covers all the services households would need from the machine itself including repairs, maintenance and water use.

Under this deal, customers lease the machine, which means they can upgrade every five years if needed to vary the size and performance of the model in order to better manage their water and energy use.

With water costs likely to rise in the future, especially in water-stressed areas like the south east of England, there will be greater appetite among consumers to save water and money in a way that doesn’t require heavy upfront investment.

Another model – the rechargeable kids system – ties in with active lifestyles by enabling children to power their gadgets and online games through physical outdoor activity.

One product that could be launched under this range is super genius trainers. Each trainer generates and stores power for electronic games and media. The more active the child when wearing the trainers, the more power they generate and able to run their devices ‘off-grid’ at home.

The trainers are also built to harvest energy in every possible way, even from the heat generated as the kids’ feet get hot playing sports. They could also be designed to capture and upload data into virtual games, showing children how fast and far they have run.

In addition, the family shoe rack could double up as an electricity distribution hub – when the trainers are placed on the rack, their energy and information transfers to the bedroom.

Creative reinvention of consumer goods is another model outlined in the study using handheld molecule scanners. By simply pointing the scanner at an object, people are informed whether their old belongings can be transformed into something new.

The Mo.Mo scanner works by scanning objects to identify what materials they contain and offers ideas for what they can be turned into using a high-tec 3D fabrication laboratory.

Customers would subscribe to the service and receive a set number of ‘prints’ at the 3D fabrication service and all the technologies they need – like a digital platform where they can select additional materials from an online library and choose, adapt or personalise 3D design patterns.

Maxine Perella

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