It’s Not Easy Being Green

I’m a day late getting in on “Blog Action Day,” and failed to write about anything green related yesterday as mandated by the blogosphere lords. But my regular day was in fact mostly green. I biked to work as usual, shopped local, watched a Netflix movie, (if that’s considered green,) and drank some green tea after dinner.

We hear lots of chatter about green products and companies. A LOT of chatter. In the past year the green theme has nascented into an avalanche which seemed to land mostly on the desks of marketing strategists. I don’t blame anyone for being burned out on the green scene: I see green labels at the supermarket, I can purchase carbon offsets when flying, and Mr. TV constantly tells me to “be green.” However every time I see a “green” promotion in retail or online my skepto-dar immediately cranks up and I wonder if in fact the money brought in from the green marketing collection plate is even making it to the green causes they promote.

Maybe I’m annoyed people treat the theme of environmentalism like a new scarf. Or those stupid oversize sunglasses that are so popular for some reason. It’s akin to your favorite band hitting it big, and you fervently reminding me “Hey I was with them when they were playing at…” You get the point. I’ve never mulched or torched a Hummer, but overall I think I’ve always BEEN pretty green.

With so many companies promoting “greenery” I fear eventually consumers will become tired of the theme, companies will shuffle on to the next trend, and the label “green” will once again be relegated to a pejorative for extreme environmentalists living in trees.

I’m FOR environmental awareness. I encourage people to maintain a reasonable environmental footprint. But that goes beyond retail and marketing. For those truly green it’s interwoven into your identity so tight that you don’t consciously THINK “green” with every purchase you make. Hal Taussig, founder of “Untours,” is a perfect example of this. He doesn’t need to concern himself with trendy green purchases because the entire philosophical umbrella of which he lives is life shows concern for personal and ecological sustainability. And I doubt he pontificates it daily.

I ask using Taussig’s example: Do you really need to juggle carbon offsets and weigh farmer over supermarkets if the MAJORITY of your life is already lived in the green? Personally I enjoy biking as a viable transportation method because it’s efficient and healthy. I shop local because it’s convenient and less time consuming, and our household has one car because it saves a ton of money. My motive in those choices isn’t to label myself green. It’s to maintain a simple, manageable, and enjoyable life. Fortunately these decisions end up being green. That however is a dangerous message for companies selling the “green” game, because part of being green is to eschew excess consumption and materialism. (Ok now I’ll disclose I own the Roomba and two iPods.)

Being “green” is more than just buying paper towels labeled green (in a plastic wrapper picturing the earth from space.) It’s about the sum of your individual choices. Your collective life is the denominator of what’s considered “green” or not. Should certain companies even market themselves as environmentally friendly when the products they design can never be considered green in the first place? How can a magazine even consider itself green, when as noted in the Cause Related Marketing blog the entire concept of a magazine – paper, printers, and trucks – is the complete antithesis of what being green is about?

I find it ridiculous for someone to search out green toilet paper when they have a three or four person family living in a 3,500 square foot house with five bathrooms to stock said TP in. It’s as nonsensical as slapping a lemon yellow “for the troops” stickers on a shiny black Escalade.

We live in a competitive and consumptive society. We’re told daily to purchase products we don’t need in order to solve problems we don’t have. The blog “marketing green” even examines and details strategies and methods of selling green. Green products follow the logic and money trail down another avenue of marketing. A company can’t say the REAL green message of “Don’t buy our junk – you don’t need it.” But those that are a different shade of green are astute at making smart consumer choices, limiting their consumption, and refraining from stockpiling their homes with unnecessary cheap plastic crap.

I’m a critic of our country’s suburban design, lack of accessible neighborhoods outside cities, the over reliance of cars for simple community transportation, and the quicksand pits of credit card debt that people gamble wade into. To me these larger concerns often override the efforts to be green on a small scale, and until the issue of larger than life consumption is addressed I’m not too concerned with “White Google versus Black Google.”

When thinking “green” forget about what’s on the store shelf. Examine your consumption, material drives, and balance your needs versus your wants. Scaling down in life, spending less, and making conscious consumer choices beyond whether it’s “green” or not will by proxy make you a greener person. That’s the ultimate green statement. But don’t tell the marketers.

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