Green Products: Marketing or real change of values?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The numerous “green” products that have a supposedly lower environmental impacts as their conventional cousins give us the good and fuzzy feeling that we are thinking and living more sustainably. But, has really enough happened? The truth of the answer to this is a firm no.

greenwashing-cartoon1The potential of consumer goods to become “green” is large. Alone in Germany in 2011 consumers spent around 36 billion Euro on “sustainable” products (I have put sustainable in parenthesis because some may just products that make the claim but really are not, such as bamboo) and of those 14 billion were spent with regards to making homes more energy efficient. But, when put in the context of consumer spending in 2012 of 1,500 billion Euro then that what is being spent on “green” products is only 2.4% of that entire sum.

The problem is that industry and design are not seeing that potential as to greening products, and I mean here properly greening products and not greenwashing products. And sustainability also and especially means that those products have to be made locally and not in Timbuktu or more likely China.

Often businesses use terms such as “sustainability” and “green products” predominately as a marketing ploy as, for instance, with regards to the claims made for bamboo fiber, which is nothing but Rayon, and such claims, if they cannot be substantiated, as is often the case are then nothing but greenwashing and that is very much on the increase. If the consumer is unaware then he or she falls for such claims and while believing he is doing the Planet good is, in fact, not.

Not every man or woman on the street, the average consumer, even the “green” consumer, knows his or her onions, so to speak and can easily be misled by such false claims, and that is, obviously, the whole idea in this, namely to bamboozle and to make people believe that they are buying something that is good for them and the Planet.

Instead of buying green products we must first and foremost look at what we can reuse and repurpose before we even take the route of buying. That is the green way.

All too often even those who think of themselves as green and environmentally friendly cannot think past recycling bin and the eco-store and I have seen that more than once. The example I like to cite here is the one about the person who proudly comments that he has bought a recycled steel pencil bin for US$10 for his home office while at the same time throwing a clean tin can, which would have been able to serve the same purpose for $0 or the one who proudly comments on his recycled glass storage jars he bought for US$18 while tossing one clean glass jar after the other into the recycling bin that would have done the same job for no money at all.

Consumption and consumerism has been conditioned into us, including those in the green movement, to such an extent that we cannot think, at least not the majority, and even, as said, those that consider themselves green and environmentally conscious, and in the cases of the latter ordinary consumption has been replaced what we have come to refer to as greensumption, that is to say the buying of supposedly green and environmentally friendly goods. And greenwashing is all around us to such an extent that few people can see through the marketing.

However, it is much greener to make than to go and buy and reuse and upcycling is often so easy that it almost is impossible to believe and still so many cannot see the potential of the things that they then simply toss into the recycling bin. We have to learn to think again in the way that our grandparents and their parents thought and bring back sanity into the world.

© 2014