The New York Times’ Alex Williams shines some light on the arguments of those who critique the green consumerism movement that has cropped up as of late. Many of these critics refer to the trend-driven movement as the “light green” movement.
The suggestion appears to be that these new “eco-friendly” options being presented to consumers have the potential to serve as an easy out for many. Essentially, labels promising eco-sensitive products could be giving consumers license not to examine and modify their overall consumption habits. And if consumers aren’t careful, their new eco-conscious buying habits have the potential to cause a greater negative impact on the planet in the long run because they might feel justified about speeding up their purchasing and replacement cycle to buy more eco-friendly products than they otherwise might to replace regular items, many of which could still be in fine condition but would now end up as additional waste.
As the article states:
It’s as though the millions of people whom environmentalists have successfully prodded to be concerned about climate change are experiencing a SnackWell’s moment: confronted with a box of fat-free devil’s food chocolate cookies, which seem deliciously guilt-free, they consume the entire box, avoiding any fats but loading up on calories.
While “buying green” has become more and more fashionable, these critics claim that in most cases the trend really hasn’t done much to solve the Earth’s problems because of the waste produced by buying new products and tossing out old ones. Many of the critics suggest that the real, but less fashionable, way to significantly decrease one’s impact on the Earth may not be to run out and buy the latest eco-friendly product but rather to make do with what one already has or to buy less in general.
I realize that if this idea catches on, it wouldn’t be great for business. However, lucky for industry insiders, I think that it could likely take a lot more than the threat of the destruction of the environment to slow many consumers down in their quest to remain on-trend.
For the sake of playing devil’s advocate, a true pessimist might even take the criticism a step further and question the motives of the manufacturers and marketers who are suddenly so enthusiastic about pushing these items as to whether or not this “buy green” movement is really just the latest in planned obsolescence. But I guess that’s a question for another day.
Still, it’s possible that in addition to providing new eco-friendly products, industries like the CE industry could do more to offer solutions for consumers who have already bought products that are less-than-eco-friendly but that still work. Off the top of my head, I’d think a program to offer replacement parts for older models that would help the products to save energy and cut emissions in ways similar to newer products might be a step in the right direction.