Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Rant in a Minor Key: Going Against the Green

For me, green is beginning to look a lot browner.

My dad believed in conservation - he was a union wage earner coming out of the Depression with four kids and a wife who was a week-night and weekend farmer because he had always been a farmer and because we needed the food. To dad two of the most dispicable words in the English language were scabs (the anti-union kind) and soil erosion. We caught hell if we tried to dam up the little stream that flowed by our house or cut play roads into the bare hillside.

I grew up as an environmentalist, which meant that I sometimes was at odds with the company I worked for - DuPont - but also sometimes defended them when I thought they were the victim of kneejerk criticisms of big business.

But I'm sick of green. Green is the new patriotism. Salute without even counting the stars in the flag. What set me off this time was seeing an ad about a Ford hybrid with its boast for how many miles a gallon it got in city driving. How much electricity does it take for recharging and how is that electricity manufactured? How much energy does it take to mine rare metals for the battery and what does it do to the environment? What is the total energy savings, if any? Tell me all that information in less-than-fine print, tell me all the tradeoffs, and I might seriously consider the ad's message.

The same with all our electronics. I love computers and my e-mail and my Blackberry and my blogging, but at what environmental cost? Electronics are far from being environmentally clean or even energy efficient from their birth to their final disposal. So spare me that puritan little note about considering whether I need to print out a message on (renewable and biodegradable and recyclable) paper if I want to retain something.

Yes, I do believe in some green causes. I believe absolutely that plastic bags are evil and not necessary because they last forever and are clogging up wire fences across the country and contaminating our oceans. They are the graffiti of packaging. When I need to carry something, I take along my own reusable bag in 90% of the cases. The other 10% is due to a faulty memory. Mostly, I love to carry things in my bare hands, sans baggage.

I was - am- a marketer of products and ideas. But I do get tired of so many false or unprovable green claims that I get daily from people touting their greener-than-green wine or food packaging, their tiny little carbon footprints, and their chastity-like sustainability. I delete most of these messages immediately without reading. And don't worry about me printing them out first.

Until next time...

Roger Morris

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