The Commercialization of Green Consumerism

Out for my walk this morning in the fog with Heather.  We have great talks on these early morning jaunts and this morning we got onto the topic of green lifestyles.  It all started with my relating to her a story I’d heard the night before about young people overwhelmed by their debt load after getting out of school and some of the creative ways in which they’re solving their problems.  We segued into how much affluence we have in this country and that we have absolutely no idea of what it means to ‘make do’.  Unlike, say someone in the Dominican making $3.00 a day.  To us, making do is deciding to eat lunch at McDonald’s instead of Boston Pizza.  Tough decision!

Anyway, this got me going on how living green has become the next big growth industry.  Up til now we’ve all been pressured into buying designer clothes, fancy houses, bigger, bigger and bigger flat screen tv’s, new cars, vacation properties — the list just goes on forever.  Now, however, we are being pressured into living green, but living green expensively.  What is, essentially, supposed to be a way of living your life simpler, less expensively and with minimal impact on the environment, has become just one more way for us to live in competition with one another.

For instance, you’re only a cool ‘greenie’ if you pitch your current household linens and buy 100% bamboo, hemp or organic cotton.  Anyone seen the price of a set of bamboo sheets?  Try $400.00 a pop!  A t-shirt made of 100% certified organic, non-rainforest harvested hemp?  A mere $100.00.  Or what about retrofitting your house with solar panels, a solar powered generator, switching to geo-thermal heat instead of good old coal or water generated electricity?  Upwards of $50,000.00 (and that’s only if you live in an area where something like geo-thermal options are feasible).

Then there are vehicles — switching to a hybrid sounds like a smart, sensible, responsible idea, until you start looking into them.  Cost of these vehicles is coming down somewhat, but have you checked into repair costs?  Ouch!  And, load up a family of 4, a few large suitcases, the dog, some camping gear and head out for the back country for some nice fresh air and discover just how economical and comfortable these vehicles aren’t.  Maybe, while you’re away you can have some home renovations taken care of.  How about installing Fair Trade 100% organic bamboo or cork flooring harvested by hand from naturally sustainable forests?  Compare the costs to North American hardwood made from trees raped from our forests, then manufactured in our embarrassingly modern and technologically advanced mills.  The bamboo or cork is only about 3 times the cost, but hey the investment in feeling good about doing something ‘green’ will be more than worth it.

Going natural, it seems, has become just one more way for somebody else to get rich off everybody else’s guilt.  For years I’ve been trying to live a simpler, greener life and I’ve managed without having to spend a ton of money to do it.  It’s all about changing the way you think, not about how you spend your money.

I recycle everything that I can, and as a result when I shop, I shop with recycling in mind.  I don’t buy over packaged goods so that I don’t have a mound of plastic to send to the recycling depot.  I re-purpose things — meaning once an old t-shirt is too grungy to wear I turn it into rags.  We are renovating, and we are doing as much of the work ourselves as we can, we reuse as much of the old stuff as we can and we try to incorporate environmentally friendly products whenever and wherever we can.  But, our retaining wall is still made from pressure-treated timbers and the new eavestroughing is PVC, not artisan-made tin or copper.

It really annoys me that something so simple that could have such an impact on our world and people’s lives is being exploited so that someone else can get rich.  And you just know that the marketing geniuses and corporation executives behind the push to get you to ‘go green’ aren’t driving around in Smart Cars, eating 100% organically grown Tofu burgers, and that they’re not living in some mud hut somewhere with nothing but the skins of animals to wear.

Seriously, people, smarten up.  Live green, but for god’s sake, do it without buying into the hype.

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2 Comments

  1. Kristine said,

    October 21, 2009 at 11:50 pm

    AGREED!! I have wondered about this same idea for a while; why is GREEN so expensive? Who would have thought 20 years ago that Value Village can charge the same prices as Wal-Mart and still be filled with shoppers? Re-use used to mean “cheap”, but that idea is slipping away….

    • klrs09 said,

      October 22, 2009 at 4:13 am

      yeah, i know, this is something that drives me a little nuts, i know i’m not finished harping on this yet!


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