Today’s Washington Post has a wonderful article decrying "green commercialism." Greed in the Name of Green, by Monica Hesse, has an even more poignant subtitle: To Worshipers of Consumption: Spending Won’t Save the Earth. After showcasing a number of ridiculous green products that environmentally-aware consumers can purchase, Hesse quotes Paul Hawken (formerly of Smith & Hawken):
"Really going green," Hawken says, "means having less. It does mean less. Everyone is saying, ‘You don’t have to change your lifestyle.’ Well, yes, actually, you do."
Yes, we do have to change our lifestyle. We can’t just buy our way to a healthier environment or a cleaner conscience. It requires a real change – not just in what we buy, but in our buying altogether. We have to buy less, consume less, waste less, a proposal that goes against just about ever fiber in our American consumerist being.
FYI, I made a similar argument a few months ago in a post critiquing the selling and buying of so-called "carbon off-sets," Carbon Offsets: Good Stewardship or Grand Scam?
3 thoughts on “Buying Green to Assuage our Guilt”
Anything to sell a product. And the full scientific facts about many green issues don’t always come out. Just today I was reading about the horrendous use of water for bio-fuels. In the Western part of Mn, the bio-fuels plants have sucked so much water out of the ground that the water table has dropped 50 feet! The companies have had to drill new wells for people.
If everyone bought less we’d be in an economic pickle. For example, an acquaintance of ours, Mary Beth Oyebade, helps run the Mashiah Foundation, http://www.mashiahfoundation.org/, and ELCA sponsored mission in Nigeria. They teach women quilting skills. The wonderful work they produce is brought to the US for sale. We bought quite a bit, including a stole. If the US weren’t a land of consumers, this type of project wouldn’t work.
The ELCA theme “Living Simply with God” is our churches Lenten theme. Last week we looked at Affluenza. If we only bought what we needed, etc. we would live more simply. Most importantly, we could give more to the poor, as in Jesus’ mandate. And give more time. But there would be more people, such as artists, without income.
And don’t get me started on the American desire to have A LOT, but expect to pay the price tag possible because the goods are made in a developing country. Importing isn’t very green.
PS makes a good point about the complications. The US isn’t going to stop buying, and if we suddenly did that could turn out to be disastrous too.
The thing is, in spite of all the nay-saying, we really can make a difference. The “green” product movement, misguided as it may be, is a sign that people want to make a difference. These products are put out by people trying to cash in on an emerging cultural attitude, but the important thing to notice is that the cultural attitude _is_ emerging.
As it turns out, the biggest way to make a difference is by changing government policies. For instance, we could stop holding back our fuel economy standards just to prop up the Big Three. That game is catching up with them anyway. All we need is some clever people to take the “green” will of the masses and turn it into political capital.
I don’t think that the merchandise in my A Greater Gift or Coop America catalogs qualify as “ridiculous.” On the other hand…I was in Meijer today and saw a truly ridiculous “Go Green” jewelry display filled with cheap, crappy Chinese bling-bling. As cynical as manufacturers and retailers are, consumers are not without guilt either.
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