You’ve seen the ads on television, in magazines, an at the mall. “Go Green” by purchasing this reusable bag! Be more “Eco-Friendly” by picking up one of our 100% recycled-plastic doo-dads! “Love the Earth” by replacing your t-shirts with new designer-brand organic cotton ones! The greenwashing of our retail world knows no bounds, as major corporations jump on the green bandwagon and market products that most of us aren’t interested in, nevermind even need. They have assembled teams of charlatans with the goal of tricking you into buying products you don’t need just because the product is “green” – and they are very good at their jobs.
Don’t fall for it. Don’t let them get you.
If you do not need an item, you definitely don’t need a green version of it. If your bookcase or desk still works just fine for your needs, you don’t need to replace it with one made from sustainably-sourced hardwood from a local supplier. The one you have is perfectly good, doesn’t require any new materials to be harvested at all, and won’t end up in a landfill. Imagine if everyone replaced the items they already own with new eco-friendly versions. What a mess that would make, all in the name of going green!
A few years back I received a press release about a “green” mansion that some billionaire was building. Reading the specs I kept saying to myself that there is no way this house is green. A giant pool, waterfalls, a 7 car garage, a dock for a yacht, 11 bathrooms, and 15,000 square feet of living space. How in the world is that considered green? Because it has a few solar panels out back? That’s the furthest thing from green that I could possibly even imagine, yet here was this PR puppet sending out information to green bloggers in hope of getting coverage. And you know what? She got it, and not from just a few sites. Many covered it without nary a mention of greenwash or the hypocrisy of it all.
That’s frightening. And it’s not a welcome trend.
I am all-too-often hearing fellow eco-writers talk incessantly about all the swag they picked up at one of the many “green” conferences they attend each year. Pens, bags, pins, stickers, frisbees… When did they stop being environmentalists and become swag hoarders? Just because something is free does not mean one needs to take it, especially if it’s nothing needed nor useful. There is nothing green about that at all.
The word “green” has become a catchall term without much meaning anymore. “Buying Green” is even worse; just the fact that we use that phrase kind of takes away from what green used to mean. Yes, we can buy more eco-friendly products when we need them. But buying and replacing just for the sake of buying green is the complete antithesis of what the movement is all about. It’s about reducing, reusing, repurposing, recycling, and regifting – not shopping.
So before you run out and “buy green”, ask yourself 10 very important questions:
- Do I even need it?
- If I am replacing something I already own, is the one I have working just fine?
- What will I do with the old one?
- How much energy is exerted to make the “green” version?
- How far away was it made?
- Who made it?
- How long will it last?
- Am I falling for greenwashing?
- Is this bringing value to my life?
- And again, do I need it?
No one will ever begrudge you for buying what you need. And when you buy what you need, look for an eco-friendlier version. Need a new lightbulb? Buy a CFL or an LED bulb. Looking at new cars? Why not take a gander at a new hybrid from Toyota or Honda. Out of batteries? Pick up a set of rechargeable batteries that will last you at least 5-7 years.
We all need to shop and purchase items once in a while; it’s to be expected. But if you are buying green to replace something that doesn’t need replacing, or even worse buying something you don’t even need, you aren’t doing the planet nor the environment any good. Not all “green” is created equal.
So readers, have you replaced perfectly good items in an effort to be green? If so, what did you replace? Or, if you have gotten free stuff, how much of it have you actually used?