This past Sunday, the New York Times Style Section published an article called "Buying into the Green Movement." The editorial parodies the eco-lifestyle with such jabs as, a "three-car garage lighted by energy-sipping fluorescent bulbs" and an "Armani biodegradable knit shirt." The critique continues as NY Times journalist Alex Williams argues that green products do nothing for the environment. Instead, they distract from -- and ultimately destroy -- the hard work of true environmentalists.
When I first read the article I must admit I got pretty flustered. Williams so clearly and accurately articulates the "hypocrisy of green consumerism." He is right on... and I -- a wannabe eco-chic -- was shaking in my recycled-rubber boots. What Williams says is true: the concept of "green shopping" is completely ironic, but does that mean it is distracting from and destroying the environmental movement?
After contemplating Williams' article, compulsively mulling his argument over and over, even considering giving up my quest to discover and promote green products, I have come to the conclusion that "green" is neither savior nor destroyer. Rather, green is a facilitator.
In other words, "green" is a promotional tool. It is bait to draw in the masses, open ears, gain an audience, and get the party started. There's no denying that green products, green marketing, green is sexy -- whatever you want to call it -- attracts attention to the issues. Awareness then sets off a chain reaction of self-reflection, assessment, education, community, and political action ... and we go from there.
Eco-style creates a community. Treehugger.com blogger Lloyd Alter said it best in his response to Williams. "If you want a movement you need a membership." John Passacantando, the executive director of Greenpeace USA, echoes this point in his statement to Williams, "you need Wal-Mart and Joe Six-Pack and mayors and taxi drivers... you need participation on a wide front."
So who cares if Leonardo DiCaprio is posing with a penguin on the cover of Vanity Fair? If that means a few Hollywood madams will buy a Lexus over a Hummer then that's great. People are bonding over making good consumer choices and it is spurring a larger debate.
Obviously the best option is to consume nothing at all, but lets be honest... that isn't really an option, is it? Lets encourage consumers to buy less. When they do choose to purchase, lets lead them to the green products and give them a pat on the back for making a better choice.