Saturday, October 11, 2008

Going For the Green: Thoughts on Guilt and Greenwashing

"These days, it seems just about every business is finding a way to go green, making it that much harder for well-intentioned consumers to distinguish companies with green products and services." --Entrpreneur Magazine

Green guilt, extreme green, green washing—the over-exposure to green messages leaves me feeling eco-fatigued. Businesses greenwashing in hopes of getting attention has created a backlash of cynicism against the green trend. What's an easy going green gal to do?

I confess, I'm not a purist, I find it to be rigid and confusing. Twenty percent of going green requires expensive, complicated, difficult choices about which most people disagree. I focus on the 80% that has clear impacts instead of giving up because of the debatable and often painful 20%.

The way I see it, lots of people doing 80% makes a bigger difference than a few zealots doing 100%. I set a rational, reasonable example that people can follow, rather than condemn those who are unable or unwilling to adopt a perfectionist’s all-or-nothing approach.

Is that a cop-out? Is that nurturing? Economists say it is the law of diminishing return. The last 20% isn't worth the trouble it takes to go after.

Having said all that, I lose respect for businesses that claim to be green for common sense things like recycling. I find lodgings that claim to be green because they ask guests to use less water or because they switched to flourescent light bulbs laughable.

I give my business to those who assert their green-ness in writing. Certification from third parties that verify eco-friendly practices also offer credibility and I have a few for my business just for that reason. But the field of listings is so crowded, most consumers can't tell one from the other. What it seems we can tell is that it takes a variety of efforts to support local residents and protect the environment and no light coat of green can cover up for lack of substance.

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