Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Green Party

I found this on the Prius' windshield after lunch today. An identical one was placed on it a few weeks ago, when it was parked near our house. The (glossy, non-recyclable) flyer promises, "Drive a hybrid and save more than the planet."

Why does this bother me? Let me count the ways.

This is nothing more than marketing gimmickry. "Green" is just another affinity group and market segment to these folks. This guy is trying to sell car insurance (which is required in CA), but most "green" marketeers are trying to sell goods that people don't really need. The greenest choice is NOT TO CONSUME SO MUCH STUFF. But, then, what would all the marketing folks do for work?

Most "green" marketing is fairly transparent, and this is no exception. Flip the car over and there is a guy washing his SUV in the driveway. (I already wrote about the environmental damage caused by driveway car washing.) Why would an advertiser shoot himself in the foot like that? Not terribly bright. Is this the kind of guy you would want for your insurance agent?

A t-shirt on the cover of a 'back to school' circular said, "Green is the new black". The young girl/woman wearing the shirt looks so cute and happy in that shirt. And why shouldn't she? This has become a common catchphrase. (Type it into your search engine of choice and you will see many articles, some quite thoughtful.) But I feel uneasy about all this green consumerism. Buying a shirt made of organically grown cotton won't help the environment as much as wearing out the clothes that you already own (and using a clothesline instead of a dryer). The best thing we can all do is to consume less, a lot less.

Thomas Friedman put it most eloquently in the Ideas and Consequences page in the Atlantic:
I am not a skeptic about global warming. It’s happening. I am a total skeptic that we are really doing anything about it. I think we are in the middle of a huge green bubble …
Did you ever study a revolution in history? You ever seen a revolution in history where nobody got hurt? That’s the green revolution. In the green revolution, nobody gets hurt—we’re all winners … Exxon’s green. They give $100 million to Stanford … Dick Cheney’s green. He’s for alternative fuels, yeah. He’s for liquefied coal. Dick Cheney’s green. We are all green now. Welcome to the green revolution, where nobody gets hurt.

… This isn’t the green revolution, friends. This is a party … [snip] And ladies and gentlemen, today the old-legacy industries, they control this story; they control that policy mechanism in Washington. They are tough, and they will fight dirty. They are not going anywhere.

And that’s why we are having a green party, not a green revolution. Do not kid yourself for one second.

If you follow the Ideas and Consequences link over to the Atlantic, you will see billionaire Richard Branson at the top of the page, talking about his new commercial space venture, Virgin Galactic. Branson is no stranger to green marketing. His airline, Virgin Air, will sell you carbon offsets with every plane ticket. How many trees will need to be planted for every joy-ride into space?

This is not an idle worry as lifting things into space takes enormous expenditures of energy. There is a reason why space launches are so expensive. But marketeers pick their target price point and design their product around that. So, how do they bring the price of the ride down to $200,000? For starters, they get someone else to pay for the infrastructure.

Oh, I digress again. This is a post about seeing through feel-good green marketing. But I can't resist this quote from the above article.
Carol Garcia, 52, of Las Cruces, said: “It’s just a rich man’s dream that he needs us to help pay for. If it’s your dream, build it yourself.”

1 comment:

  1. Could not agree more!

    I'm all for buying green - when buying is the only option. But when you really don't need things and are just satisfying consumerist urges? That's not green, no matter how much the products are labelled as such.

    Much, much greener to keep wearing the clothes you have. I suppose the next greenest is to wear somebody else's hand-me-downs, or re-fashion second-hand (or your own) clothes. Buying a new anything is really not green.


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