By Tyanna Young
The term “going green”, while not a new term, has been thrown around heavily in the past couple years and for good reason. Since Al Gore’s documentary Inconvenient Truth about the effects of Global Warming and our hand in the depletion of the earth, there has been a rise in concern. “What can we do to help the environment?” was a question many of us asked ourselves, and companies and organizations answered. A surge of new green, environmentally friendly and sustainable products came onto the market; from things like reusable grocery bags to steel water bottles to cleaning supplies and energy saving appliances. Saving the environment became a pop culture field day. I cannot walk around campus without seeing something related to this movement; whether it is a witty ‘save the whales” graphic tee, a quiet hybrid car or even a green peace canvasser. After all, PSU is one of the leading universities in the sustainability department, and it also helps that Portland was once ranked number 1 in America’s greenest cities in 2008. What made green a phenomenon? Why is this movement relevant as popular culture? Why go green? There are several answers to those questions and many ways in which this movement affects us all as human beings.
The green movement is not just a contemporary idea, but lends its roots to the 1960’s and 70’s. War was going on and people were becoming aware of pesticides like DDT and its harmful effects on the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1970 and the first Earth Day was celebrated. Greenpeace is an activist organization based on the hopes of saving the planet, and was formed shortly after in 1971. I believe that the war on terrorism and the reality of global warming rekindled our interests of making a change in the way we live and treat the earth.
The great thing about this movement is that it grew from the people; average individuals who were concerned for the planet we live on, and what changes one can make to lower their carbon foot print. This movement is a reflection of the public’s unease. People realized the importance of recycling, composting and eating organic foods. Companies saw that these people were a new market to target in their advertisements, and politicians saw the movement was a great way to gain votes. Both Obama and McCain pledged to lower greenhouse emissions. The chain store Target came out with a line of organic cleaning products. Wal-mart made progress by establishing more energy efficient stores. Home Depot has a program called Eco-Options which lends greener options for home builders and remodelers. Most of my bills are “paperless”, which means I pay them online to avoid a statement in the mail, which is a waste of paper. Even car companies such as Audi, Volkswagen, and Toyota have been active in the green movement; giving us tips on how to save gas, better gas mileage and even electric cars.
Greenwashing is a term describing how companies use green marketing deceptively to promote a perception, and is often misleading that the companies’ policies and/or products are environmentally friendly. The most ironic example I could find was BP’s claim that it is “beyond petroleum”; remarketing itself as an environmentally sensitive company. The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico did not help that claim. A diaper brand Pampers came out with called “dry Max” claims to reduce landfill waste by reducing the amount of paper fluff in the diaper; yet it is only to reduce their costs. Another company strapped for cash is Ubisoft, who announced that it would no long include paper manuals in their games and explained it was for the purposes of being environmentally friendly.
Considering that this is a pop culture class, I decided to look at how this movement has affected people. I find that buying green creates a sense of snobbery in some people; entitling them to feel better than others who aren’t working as hard to curb the effects that overproduction and consumption has on the world. Most organic or “eco-friendly” products are usually more expensive, as it costs companies more in production. In the same sense, having environmental consciousness is something to be proud of. Even the most miniscule of changes can make an impact on the world.
The trend of green thinking and advertising is something that I’m glad is happening. Even if not shoved down our throats, being environmentally conscious is a lifestyle that will not go away. The wakeup call has been issued, and although people may stop toting around ‘tree hugger’ canvas bags, the thought is still there that our earth is in need of some help.