Monday, November 17, 2008

What does "Green" Mean?

Okay, somehow I missed the launch of the Green is Universal website last November. Now they're celebrating their second Green Week on MSNBC. (One anchor recently made the point that Ebay and Craigslist are "green" because they encourage recycling--I totally agree.) I guess for a giant media corporation to show its concern about environmental issues is a good thing, but how much of it is pandering to consumers with deep pockets? Let's face it, for the most part, people interested in these issues tend to be liberals and liberals tend to be urban and often well-heeled. This is not to denigrate all the wonderful liberal Democrats, Libertarians, Greens and unaffiliated folks out there who are trying every day to live their lives in an environmentally-responsible way and have done for years.

But have we not heard and seen all this before? "Green" might as well be a coat of toxic paint. Remember when the lawncare giant ChemLawn changed their name to Tru-Green? Did they suddenly stop using dangerous pesticides and herbicides? No! A number of large manufacturers are claiming to create and market "greener" products (like Clorox's new green cleaning sprays, or Clairol's Natural Instincts haircolor). But what about smaller companies that have been making these things for years, like Simply Green, and Arm & Hammer, and Trader Joe's, Burt's Bees, The Body Shop, and good old Dr. Bronner's?

Sadly some of these companies are no longer the small concerns they used to be; Burt's Bees has been sold to Clorox. That's right, the company that used to be owned and run by a former beekeeper is now under the auspices of the biggest bleach makers on the planet. The wide range of body care products made from herbs and natural plant oils has given way to more make-up and a smaller range of choices. The Body Shop, the UK-based international company that was a fine model of environmentally-friendly practices including using fair-trade ingredients, was sold two years ago to L'Oreal, a big traditional cosmetics company. These changes in ownership affect products; The Body Shop no longer carries many of its original products made from simple natural ingredients and now focuses on "home fragrance" and cosmetics.

So I guess what I am wondering is, will the green revolution ever really happen? Or is it all just a big scam designed to make rich corporations richer? Isn't environmental responsibility connected to economic responsibility too? I know one can chose to have one's investment portfolio concentrate in "green" companies. What would happen to our economy if more people did this?

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