What it means to be “green”

I keep hearing the catchphrase “green,” and it seems to mean many different things.

  • BY Wire Service
  • Wednesday, April 9, 2008 12:00am
  • Opinion

I keep hearing the catchphrase “green,” and it seems to mean many different things.

But while the word “green” is relative, there’s no doubt being green or going green is the thing to do these days.

Almost three-quarters of the U.S. population buys organic products occasionally. Between 2005 and 2006 the sale of organic non-food items increased 26 percent, from $744 million to $938 million, according to the Organic Trade Association.

Of course, the movement has caught on fastest here in the Northwest, a place always on the leading edge of environmental trends from curbside recycling to anti-sprawl urban planning.

The word “green” is used to describe products, services and lifestyles and seems to be a more politically correct term for things that might formerly have been called “environmentalist” or “conservationist” — labels that have become tainted from association with some radical groups.

Maybe the popularity of the term shows that as a society, we are starting to recognize our actions — or inactions — can result in undesirable consequences.

Or maybe it’s that businesses are using the term “green” to get more “green” — responding to a growing segment of people interested in doing the right thing for the environment.

So with this being our “Go Green” issue and with Earth Day approaching, I thought I would share with readers what “green” means to me. It’s much more than just my mother’s favorite color.

If you want to be green, you need to cut down on your use of energy. You can do this by turning off a light whenever you leave the room, or unplugging anything that you are not using even if you turn it off. You can recycle and even install solar panels on your house — if you have the dough for that.

I know converting all the way green costs a lot of green, so I’m not suggesting to go out and spend your child’s college fund on a hydrogen-powered car. But I am saying the little things — like recycling and not keeping the Christmas lights on until Easter — can go a long way.

I know I am not enlightening the masses with my definition of “green.”

I admit, I’m not hip to the hundreds of green terms and labels that are out there. And I’m not alone.

When the market research firm Hartman Group asked devout green consumers what the USDA “organic” seal meant on a product, 43 percent did not know. (The seal means the product is at least 95 percent organic – no pesticides, synthetic hormones, sewage sludge, irradiation or cloning.)

But I do know one thing: If being “green” means you take more time and effort to preserve the Earth and its habitat then I’ll be green until I’m blue in the face.


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Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He is a former president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. Contact thebrunells@msn.com.
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