You no doubt saw the Groupon / Solar City promotion, which has been all over the press this week. For just one dollar, customers can receive free solar panel installation and a $400 discount on home solar power. In monetary terms, that sounds like a pretty compelling deal by anyone’s standards, and is one that Solar City hopes will help get people over what they perceive as the biggest hurdle – the cost of installation.

Whatever your views on solar energy, by partnering with Groupon, as with their previous deals with Best Buy and Home Depot, Solar City is once again putting alternative energy front and center with consumers, right alongside spa deals and restaurant offers.

The aspect that interests me most about this latest development is that it is an innovative marketing idea to get a ‘green’ idea to a large scale, without leading with the ‘green sell’ – environmental benefits are mentioned, but the potential cost savings get the headline. Again, without commenting on the pros and cons of solar energy, I’ve often talked about the need for sustainability to stop being something ‘other’ and instead make sustainability practices a normal, unremarkable part of everyday life which people do without thinking. In a terrific article on GreenBiz.com (and echoed in this article on ecoseed.org), Joel Makower speaks to this very point – that ‘green marketing’ isn’t necessarily always the best strategy to adopt to drive change and, in fact, can be alienating.

A quick look at Interbrand’s 2013 Top 50 Best Green Global Brands list reveals a number of brands including Nestle, 3M, Avon and clothing retailer giant Zara, none of whom one immediately thinks of as being a ‘green brand.’ As I mentioned in last week’s post, more and more companies are committing to – and reporting on – higher standards of sustainability be it for ethical, monetary or board-appeasing reasons, or a combination thereof. As the concept of sustainability still remains a rather vague notion in many people’s minds, and quite simply because it just wouldn’t naturally crop up in the buying process, it’s therefore not surprising that many brands feel they don’t need to shoe-horn it into their marketing messaging.

All of this doesn’t mean to say that the sustainability conversation should be hushed, or that businesses large and small should stop holding themselves and each other accountable in pursuing best sustainability practices, but just a recognition that sometimes all a consumer wants to do is save on their energy bill, buy a great top or eat some candy!