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 V.17 No.18 | May 1 - 7, 2008 

Thin Line

Greenwashing

“Living green doesn't mean you have to go out and change every aspect of the way you live every day. There are some very simple ways to be more eco-friendly," said KOB's "Good Day New Mexico" host Mary Ann Orate while introducing an awkward Earth Day segment on Tuesday, April 22. During the three-minute bit, Orate gleaned tips from a "green expert" in New York City.

The suggestions were to eat SunChips because the factory where they're made is being converted to solar power; launder with a concentrated All detergent because its plastic bottle is smaller; insert applicator-less, cardboard-saving O.B. tampons; and bring your own bag to the grocery store.

This small piece of local television is one of many examples of well-intentioned yet naive Earth Day gestures. They're all part of the mainstream green craze that emerged during the last year-and-a-half in the wake of empirical evidence pointing to imminent climate change. The primary answer to this mess is that saving the Earth can be accomplished through shopping.

It's a sentiment promoted by corporations like SC Johnson, makers of Saran Wrap, Drano and other chemicals. The company is running commercials about reduced emissions, stating "when you reach for any SC Johnson product, you can feel good about it."

Any thinking person will immediately realize the oxymoronic status of "green" chemicals and plastic wrap. Yet, rather than shrugging off the insincere, big business shenanigans, the media jumped aboard this ironic eco-friendly train.

During " Earth Week" almost every mainstream news and infotainment entity offered the public some variation of "green" tips, most of which revolved around what to buy. What began as an honest and logical movement to prevent pollution and preserve nature has turned into fodder for consumerism.

Some would argue that this new-found eco-awareness among the mainstream can only be positive. The influx of "green" press helps the public become more equipped to accept things like global warming, which will help affect change in turn. This is a valid argument. The overwhelming problem, though, is green consumerism is a half-assed way of caring about the environment.

Why not suggest, instead of buying chips made at a factory powered by solar energy, we buy bulk snacks contained in a reused bag? Rather than advising the use of a highly concentrated, phosphate-laden laundry detergent, why couldn't the tip be to use a natural detergent?

Many tips offered in the name of being green actually lack the green component. The issue is consumers don't want to change their lifestyle. They want what is cheap, easy and in fashion. But like a certain famous Muppet sang, being green is not easy, so what consumers get is something that’s cheap, easy and emblazoned with a green veneer.

For people who live off the grid, compost waste, recycle religiously, eat organically and make a genuine effort to reduce their carbon footprint, this green craze must be an insult. At this point in history, being green does mean you have to go out and change every aspect of the way you live every day. "Green" Drano won't cut it.

 
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