“Going Green” has successfully marketed to the US populace is that “going green” as some sort of panacea to save the planet, particularly “driving green” via the purchase of a hybrid or other “alternative” vehicle.
As Alex Williams writes in an excellent The New York Times article on this subject, “US: Buying Into the Green Movement”:
“HERE’S one popular vision for saving the planet: Roll out from under the sumptuous hemp-fiber sheets on your bed in the morning and pull on a pair of $245 organic cotton Levi’s and an Armani biodegradable knit shirt.
Stroll from the bedroom in your eco-McMansion, with its photovoltaic solar panels, into the kitchen remodeled with reclaimed lumber. Enter the three-car garage lighted by energy-sipping fluorescent bulbs and slip behind the wheel of your $104,000 Lexus hybrid.”
This vision of saving the planet through consumption of “green” products has infiltrated culture, with entire stores, magazines, concerts, and even malls “going green.” Vanity Fair had a “green issue” with a skimpily clad, heavily photoshopped Madonna holding up the globe. Yes, cuz nothing says “save the environment” like the Material Girl.
Fortune Magazine also featured a green issue, with a story on environmentalist extraordinaire (cough, cough) Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnie, the green warrior, the magazine reports “has retooled one of his famed Hummers to run on hydrogen and another to use biofuel.” Go Arnie! Way to save the planet hummer-style!
Of course, it’s not only Arnold who has embraced the buying-a-better-world vision. As Williams notes, this “vision of an eco-sensitive life as a series of choices about what to buy appeals to millions of consumers.” Well, of course it does, it is the American way! And it so much easier to shop your way into social consciousness than to actually do things that WOULD do more to save the planet – like CONSUMING LESS! Alex Steffen, the executive editor of Worldchanging.com argues, the real solution is to reduce consumption of goods and resources, NOT green consumerism.
Further, much of this “going green” cultural shift is NOT so much about “eco-sensitivity” as is it about fashion and hipness. It is now cool to be green, or, as the t-shirt below claims “green is the new black.”
Green consumerism, as captured in the cartoon below, encourages happy shopping, or filling of the proverbial basket with anything labeled ‘green,’ ‘organic,’ or ‘fair trade.’ However, as with many such consumer trends, there is little regulation – just because a product claims to be green or fair trade does not necessarily make it so…
Referred to as “greenwashing” at Live Science, this false-greening is “Based on mostly smoke and mirrors” and “is a popular marketing strategy meant only to empty the pockets of the increasingly eco-aware, without implementing any significant changes in policy or behavior.” It seems we need a mass “Think Before You Greeen” movement akin to Think Before You Pink (to be discussed in part 9 of this series.)
Rather than “going green,” a more tenable option would be aiming for what No Impact Man practices, or being “eco-effective.” As he explains, “The philosophy is based not only on restricting consumption but on changing what is consumed so that it actually helps or at least does not hinder the world.” Other plausible solutions include what is usually termed “sustainability.” (For a good “Sustainability 101” crash course, see The Worsted Witch here.)
Yet, as option such as these require LESS consumption, they have not taken the country by storm in the way green consumerism has. For, not only is green consumerism in keeping with the United Shoppers of America mindset, it is also insidiously saturated by vested interests with everyone, including the government, reaping profits. (And such interests often PURPOSEFULLY choose the less eco-friendly options, KILLING possibilities for cars – and other products – that would get us off of the sauce -or big oil. See, for example, Who Killed the Electric Car.)
Unsurprisingly, spending less never seems to be the solution offered by corporations nor our corporatized government. Heck, they can’t even muster a “spend the same but do so on sustainable products” mantra. Instead, the “go green” message has been put on auto-drive, zooming its way into our psyches and collective cultural consciousness. However, you cannot BUY a better planet any more than you can buy social justice. When will the world wake up and realize that while mindless consumption may make us feel good and make our lives easier, it will certainly not save the planet. Hybrid cars may be a start, but spare me the claim that you are “doing your part” by purchasing the latest Lexus Hybrid or switching your Hummer to run on biofuel…
Up next, Part 8, “Saving the world Oprah style: I’ll give you a million dollars to save the world…”