No, it's NOT Easy Being Green; or Their Fake "Green" Lives
If I see one more article about a gazillion pieces of fancy overpriced "organic" or "recycled" designer crap we can cram into our lives to pretend we're doing something significant to save the planet, I'm going to shoot some (organic!?) steam out my ears.
With every Earth Day there comes a flood of special newspaper and magazine "Green Issues," all generally pushing the same deluded feel-good idea that if only we replaced non-green products with slightly more green products, we'd really Make a Big Difference and Save the Planet. We don't really need to change our consumer culture or hold corporate polluters accountable or enact sweeping and drastic environmental legislation--we just need to change our lightbulbs and wear organic cotton T-shirts.
Case in point: Domino magazine's latest "Green" issue (cover headline: "150 Easy Ways to Go Green") and "Green" list, all about "easy" and "painless" ways to save the planet... by nothing more stressful than shopping. Which is kind of like saving money by... buying what you don't need because it's on sale.
Domino's special Green issue is just an extension of their "my green life" column, which features a different model or celebrity or "activist" each month talking about all the fancy products and organic jeans they CONSUME and BUY while flying around the country on... jet fuel. Sure, life is full of contradictions. I fly myself. I don't live a perfect green life. I can't manage to embody all of my politics in everything I do as an individual in my daily life. But I don't hold my lifestyle up as a magic model that will easily and painlessly save the world.
Anyway, here's the thing: buying more fancy stuff you don't need (no matter how organic or recycled it is) is fundamentally an anti-green act. If you replace your perfectly good couch with some fancy organic or more sustainably produced designer creation, that does not mean you are saving the planet. It means you are buying a nice couch that is slightly less destructive than another couch. You're still consuming, and you're still creating waste. You are not a hero, and you are not an activist, you're just a less destructive shopper.
And shopping is not a substitute for action. Buying a red sweatshirt or red iPod that donates 1% of its profits to a poorly-run AIDS charity that spends all its money advertising red sweatshirts or red iPods is not real action for change. A lot of this feel-good, do-nothing shopping as "activism" (ActivismTM) crap is just an excuse to give yourself an excuse to BUY MORE CRAP YOU DON'T need.
Don't get me wrong--I do think it's good that more manufacturers and craftspeople and companies are being conscious of what goes into their products, and trying to minimize their impact on our already overtaxed planet. I think it's messed up that it took Apple this long to design a greener Mac. I am all for architects designing more environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient buildings (though before you go through the trouble of constructing some perfect energy-saving home, it might be more green to buy one of the many vacant homes that already exist).
And yes, if you DO have to buy something new, it's much better to buy something sustainably produced, something made under fair labor practices, etc. Or to buy something used and discarded by another American shopaholic. I get a good percentage of my work attire from the Goodwill, and I'm not talking holey sweaters and ratty jeans--I'm talking tailored skirt suits and cashmere cardigans.
But back to buying new--if "environmental"--stuff. A lot of these fancy new products aren't green, they're "Green(TM)." They're green as a marketing tool, not as a reality. Like the green Hummer I cartooned about recently. If you buy a "green" Hummer or if you buy more than you would have normally have of something because that product is "greener" and somehow more virtuous--well, the marketing team that pulled one over on you is getting a big bonus for sure.
Many of the products featured in Green Issues are cosmetically green at best--their "green" or "organic" labels are just another sales pitch or a designer fashion trend, and we all know how fickle the fashion world is. One minute fur is out. The next all those models who appeared in anti-fur ads are strolling down the runway covered in peeled fox heads.
So no, watching an Al Gore documentary or buying recycled organic toilet paper is not going to save the world. We need drastic change and we need it yesterday and it is NOT going to be EASY.
Some further reading:
- Cartoons by me on this topic:
- "The New Green Hummer"
- "Quick Fixes for Every Crisis!"
- "Confessions of a Closet Conservationist"
- "Quick and Easy Guide to Conservation"
- Cartoon work by Stephanie McMillan on this topic (Stephanie is really the master of this subject):
- "I'm recycling my dead monitor..."
- "Lie to Me"
- As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Stay in Denial (graphic novel)