Sunday, July 19, 2015

When "green" doesn't mean "frugal"

A friend who works at Google was commenting on all the extensive remodeling that they've been doing in the past few years - tearing buildings down and rebuilding, or doing extensive reconstruction, always ostensibly to make it "greener".  He was grousing about how very not-green it was to be constantly sending massive amounts of building materials to the dump.

That struck me as a good example of what I'd been thinking for a while - that a lot of what's marketed as being "green", is actually a holier-than-thou version of conspicuous consumption. For instance - some people would only buy the most eco-friendly plastic food container, heavily marketed as being made from all post-consumer waste. But they would never consider reusing, say, a plastic sour cream container for their leftovers. Or more likely, they wouldn't even save leftovers.

Another example - some parents wouldn't blink an eye over their children throwing out much of a meal, instead of saving it for later. But they would insist on buying all organic foods because they believe it's better for the earth.

What does being green actually mean? I just looked it up online. The big online dictionaries don't appear to recognize what appears to be the most commonly used meaning nowadays, that of being eco-conscious. The definitions just refer to the actual color aspect of being green. Maybe because it's too difficult to define. I think most people would say that going green means using fewer resources, and recycling more. But using fewer resources - are you using fewer resources to save money, or are you using fewer resources to...what? What if the resources are like the blackberries that grow wild in a field behind our house? If we used fewer of those that a good thing?

Okay...I'm not going to win any awards here for persuasive writing. But what I'm trying, inelegantly, to say, is that when being "green" is not at all related to frugality, then it can be a faddish thing. Like people buying a Prius when you could get a much cheaper car that isn't necessarily electric, but uses fewer resources (less of your own money, in any case!). It's just another form of conspicuous consumption.


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