Monday, July 2, 2007

New York Times Article Sparks Green Controversy

The New York Times came out with an article highlighting the trend to green consumerism. It is a highly charged article representing the full array of voices that are influencing this movement.

When I first read the article, I became a bit defensive on the attack of eco-consumption. But after re-reading it, I got the bigger picture. Terms like greenwashing and light greens are being thrown around in an accusatory manner to those businesses and individuals taking only superficial attempts to go green. Yes, at the end of the day it is about creating macro-level change at the civic and government level, and for those green loyalists who have made this their life’s work, I would be frustrated by the sudden hipness hype of being green. IMHO, we are merely at a tipping point in the world of green. An increased awareness exists and people are finding their sea legs as to which approach makes sense for them. Maybe it is all a fa├žade of PR, but whether driven by fear or genuine compassion, it is still change that is being created. As stated in the article:

John Passacantando, the executive director of Greenpeace USA, argued that green consumerism has been a way for Wal-Mart shoppers to get over the old stereotypes of environmentalists as “tree-hugging hippies” and contribute in their own way.

I respect and appreciate both the keen critical eye of the traditional environmental voice but also the budding entrepreneurial perspective of those mavens pushing the green envelope and bringing the vision of conscious consumerism to a wider audience. But at the end of the day, it is about reduced consumption. Alex Steffan of Worldchanging had a good perspective from the article:

The genuine solution, he and other critics say, is to significantly reduce one’s consumption of goods and resources. It’s not enough to build a vacation home of recycled lumber; the real way to reduce one’s carbon footprint is to only own one home.

I often find myself in debates with others as to whether this recent green hype is just a trend and in my mind the answer is clear – why does it matter? This is not like the latest gadget that is being launched and we are in a “wait and see” mode to judge the efficacy of it and whether to buy it. Why can’t we begin taking steps and working with this heightened awareness to see for ourselves because at the end of the day is about our personal and environmental health. It is about creating a sustainable future. Yes it is about reduction, but fortunate or not, some people will only make changes when forced to. Whether it is about buying a Prius to be able to drive in the HOV/carpool lane or living a no-impact lifestyle, the result is the same, less impact. Perhaps they are not measurable equivalents of reduction, but it is step in the right direction just coming from different perspectives and needs.

When I was a pilates teacher, I was pretty consistent about telling people to inhale and exhale on each movement. One of the most common comments I received at the end of most sessions (as they basked in a relaxed state) was “thank you for telling me to breath.” After saying the comment, most people realized the absurdity of the statement, but what they were thanking me for was that I simply reminded them of something they do unconsciously billions of times each day and with just a little of awareness they could literally feel better.

That is how I like to look at this recent swirl of green. Whether it is the die-hard environmentalists, the influencers of the green blogosphere, or even the eco-innovaters of conscious consumerism, these are all various voices that are raising an awareness that we are all capabable of. My advice, everyone take a deep breath, and take a green step of your own and I bet once you do, you will find yourself hooked on empowerment and shopping at your locals farmers market before you know it. Ok, off to pick up my zipcar

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