Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Green Memo: Greed in the Name of Green

Editor's Note: Green or environmental consumerism is one of the fastest-growing trends globally. It includes buying natural, organic, sustainable and locally-grown foods, for example.

Green consumers also are looking to shop at retailer's who conserve energy, offer "green" products for sale in their stores, and decrease their own carbon footprints as a business entity.

In terms of the products they buy, green consumers want goods that are 100% recyclable and made from recycled materials. Green shoppers also want energy efficient products, less packaging and other eco-friendly product attributes in the foods, grocery products, hard goods and other products they purchase.

Of course, green or environmental consumerism isn't without its challenges, conflicts and even contradictions. This also is true for grocery product manufacturers, marketers and retailers who are increasingly producing, marketing and selling "green" or sustainable products.

Like Kermit The Frog says: "It isn't easy being green."

Washington Post staff writer Monica Hesse has an article in today's addition of the publication in which she analyzes and discusses a number of aspects of green consumerism and the challenges and conflicts it poses. As our readers know, we don't often run pieces by others. However, we read Ms. Hesse's story early this morning and wanted to bring it to you, as we think it offers some interesting insights.

The article begins below. Then, to read the rest of it, just click on the link provided.

Greed In the Name Of Green
To Worshipers of Consumption: Spending Won't Save the Earth

By: Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Congregation of the church of the Holy Organic, let us buy.

Let us buy Anna Sova Luxury Organics Turkish towels, 900 grams per square meter, $58 apiece. Let us buy the eco-friendly 600-thread-count bed sheets, milled in Switzerland with U.S. cotton, $570 for queen-size.

Let us purge our closets of those sinful synthetics, purify ourselves in the flame of the soy candle at the altar of the immaculate Earth Weave rug, and let us buy, buy, buy until we are whipped into a beatific froth of free-range fulfillment.

And let us never consider the other organic option -- not buying -- because the new green consumer wants to consume, to be more celadon than emerald, in the right color family but muted, without all the hand-me-down baby clothes and out-of-date carpet.

There was a time, and it was pre-Al Gore, when buying organic meant eggs and tomatoes, Whole Foods and farmer's markets. But in the past two years, the word has seeped out of the supermarket and into the home store, into the vacation industry, into the Wal-Mart. Almost three-quarters of the U.S. population buys organic products at least 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.

Green is the new black, carbon is the new kryptonite, blah blah blah. The privileged eco-friendly American realized long ago that SUVs were Death Stars; now we see that our gas-only Lexus is one, too. Best replace it with a 2008 LS 600 hybrid for $104,000 (it actually gets fewer miles per gallon than some traditional makes, but, see, it is a hybrid). Accessorize the interior with an organic Sherpa car seat cover for only $119.99.

Consuming until you're squeaky green. It feels so good. It looks so good. It feels so good to look so good, which is why conspicuousness is key.

These countertops are pressed paper. Have I shown you my recycled platinum engagement ring?

In the past two weeks, our inbox has runneth over with giddily organic products: There's the 100 percent Organic Solana Swaddle Wrap, designed to replace baby blankets we did not even know were evil. There's the Valentine's pitch, "Forget Red -- The color of love this season is Green!" It is advertising a water filter. There are the all-natural wasabi-covered goji berries, $30 for a snack six-pack, representing "a rare feat for wasabi."

There is the rebirth of Organic Style magazine, now only online but still as fashionable as ever, with a shopping section devoted to organic jewelry, organic pet bedding, organic garden decor, which apparently means more than "flowers" and "dirt."

Read the rest of Ms. Hesse's Washington Post piece 'Greed in the Name of Green,' here.

Editor's Addendum: Additionally, the Washington Post featured Leslie Garrette, the author of the popular book "The Virtuous Consumer" which is about the growing "green" or environmental consumer movement, in an online chat this afternoon.

Ms. Garrett discussed the challenges and conflicts people, businesses and organizations can face in trying to buy green, as well as in saving the environment. The Washington Post has a transcript of the online chat this afternoon here. The discussion offers some interesting consumer insight about green consumerism and related issues. We suggest you read Ms. Hesse's article first, then read the transcript from this afternoon's online chat over at the Washington Post.

The story by Ms. Hesse and the online discussion with Leslie Garrett are good consumer intelligence pieces for anybody in the food and grocery industry, as well as in business in general. They also should be of interest to all of us as citizens of our respective countries as well.

Note: The graphic at top is by Roger Chouinard.

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