National Geographic’s new Green Guide magazine offers tidy, bite-sized tips on how to greenify your life, but is quick and easy really a good thing? As I perused the article headlines and section topics, I couldn’t help but marvel at how neat and organized they made the topic seem, sectioned into cute titles appealing to the self-help junkies previously obsessed with physical appearance like “Lose 142 lbs (of Carbon) in a week”, or “Is your Salad Safe?” The magazine seemed designed to be grabbed in the supermarket aisle and stuffed under the arm along with US Weekly, for some easy reading during the kids’ soccer practice. So, today, should we read about Britney’s latest antics or whether your surfboard is eco-friendly or not?
Unfortunately, unlike topics like the best face masks or the latest Spring fashion, the environment can’t be tackled in a coffee break. Any true change probably isn’t going to come from completing a simple check list. “Thanks Allison, I would love to meet you for coffee, but I promised Dan I’d reduce our carbon footprint this afternoon, before I pick up the kids.” Green Guide even states themselves that they provide helpful tips for general consumers, not enviromaniacs. Hmm. So are they saying the final stage of going green is mania? That they’re there for the person who wants to be green, but only while it’s convenient, and not on weekends?
I doubt I’m the only one who has noticed that the “green theme” is popping up everywhere, slapped on everything from supermarket coupon books (printed on paper), to Travel Guides published by an automobile club. Hey, if oil companies like Shell can say they’re being pro-green by sponsoring races that emphasize fuel economy, then anyone can say they’re being environmentally responsible.
Really though, the problem isn’t with GreenGuide magazine, coupon books or trendy websites, it’s with consumers themselves. We have a reputation of jumping on a movement’s bandwagon when it’s trendy and easily accessible. “Green is the new black”, really? So what happens when the fad is over?
According to a 2008 Green Gap study, almost four out of ten American consumers purposefully buy environmentally friendly products, but misunderstand labeling. Almost half the population mistakenly thinks the marketing terms “green” and “environmentally friendly” mean something has a positive effect on the environment, when it actually just means the negative effect has been slightly decreased. Almost half of all Americans also believe companies are accurately communicating the truth about their effect on the environment.
So the bottom line? Green may be in right now, and I can’t help but wonder if all those people screwing in energy-saving fluorescent lightbulbs and buying organic lettuce now aren’t the same ones who were sporting toy Chihuahua’s and Hummers a couple years ago. It’s never too late to care, but let’s be smart about it, and not be one of those people that orders a diet soda with their big Mac.