J500 Media and the Environment

What Does “Green” Mean? by IanN
June 25, 2009, 6:55 am
Filed under: Energy + Climate, J840 Week 2 | Tags: , , ,

The word green is often used as an adjective for environmentally-friendly or as shorthand for the environmental movement. It is possible that the word green has been widely adopted because it doesn’t have the radicalism associated with the environmental movement (especially in the 1970s but also with groups like Earth First and the Earth Liberation Party).

In the U.S., the term “green” has largely become a marketing term, in the sense that it is mostly used to sell products and ideas. However, this is not a necessarily a bad thing, especially in a consumerist culture like the U.S, where we express our personalities often through what we purchase. Therefore, defining products as green might be a pragmatic approach to some of our environmental problems, because, increasingly, many consumers self-identify as “green.” Marketers are also realizing that labeling things green helps move their products off the shelf.  According to an article in Brandweek magazine, a national survey “found that a product’s ‘energy footprint’  influences 77 percent for consumers’ purchasing decisions, with 76 percent willing to pay more at the register for environmentally-friendly products.” Aaron Franklin, project director at study sponsor ORC Guideline , issued a statement saying, “The study’s findings seem to debunk a common perception that people will go green as long as it doesn’t cost them. In fact …people seem to be willing to put their money where their values are.”  The danger in this is that the term “green” risks being co-opted and abused to near meaninglessness.


I agree with Thomas L. Friedman that being green means being patriotic. In an April 15, 2007 piece in The New York Times Magazine, Friedman wrote, “I want to rename ‘green.’ I want to rename it geo-strategic, geo-economic, capitalistic and patriotic. I want to do that because I think that living, working, designing, manufacturing, and projecting America in a green way can be the basis of a new unifying political movement for the 21st century. A redefined, broader and more muscular green ideology is not meant to trump the traditional Republican and Democratic agendas but rather to bridge them when it comes to addressing the three major issues facing every American today: jobs, temperature, and terrorism.” (As a side note, terrorism is also partially abetted by oil profits. This presents a much more immediate threat to some than global warming.)

Encouragingly, everyday there are signs of more and more convergence in terms of disparate interest groups, such as large corporations, environmental groups, and consumers, coming together to address environmental problems in practical, less radical, and even profitable ways. However, Americans tend to have short attention spans.

— Ian Nyquist


Green is the New Red, White, and Blue by mindeeforman

I had an experience a few months ago that really opened my eyes about just how far mainstream “going green” has become.

I regularly challenge my workplace to do better environmentally, and was horrified to walk into the cafeteria and see mostly foam and plastic dishware during a recent remodel. I tried to implement a better way and was told by the Powers That Be that it just wasn’t a priority at the moment.

I’m known as a pretty liberal environmentalist type, and was relaying this story to a friend of mine at work who’s a Republican but is always up for a good political discussion with me anyway. When I told him this story he said, “Wow, Mindee – way to be patriotic!”

Did I miss something? When did trying to be environmentally friendly become PATRIOTIC?!? And WOO HOO!! It’s about time…

This idea of green being patriotic has apparently been percolating for some time.

Author Thomas Friedman wrote about this in an article for the New York Times in 2006:

“[B]eing green, focusing the nation on greater energy efficiency and conservation, is not some girlie-man issue. It is actually the most tough-minded, geostrategic, pro-growth and patriotic thing we can do.”

His 2007 interview with Time Magazine provides more food for thought:

Linguistics professor George Lakoff talks about framing the environmental protection issue in a way that appeals to both conservatives and liberals. I can think of no better way than making going green the most patriotic thing an American citizen can do.

-Mindee Forman

Make Less Trash, Not More War by shemme

Definitely not as cool as “Make Love, Not War,” but hey, sometimes you just gotta try stuff out.

FACT: Americans collected and recycled rubber, paper, scrap metal, fats, and tin cans during the 1940s to help the war effort. These efforts actually resulted in 25% of the entire waste stream being recycled and reused!
(Source: EPA “Milestones in Garbage” report)

warposter1.jpgWWII: “Help put the lid on Hitler by saving your old metal and paper.”

FAST FORWARD: It’s 2004, America is again at war, this time in Iraq. Soldiers overseas defy orders and report to journalists that they don’t have the necessary armor on their bodies or their vehicles, and there aren’t enough field radios, night vision goggles, or ammunition to go around. Back home only 36% (about 7 million tons) of metals are being recycled. Metals during this time make up 8% of the total waste stream. This means that despite soldier needs, 19.4 million tons of metal are being buried in landfills. Could there have been a national war effort to recycle all of this metal to keep our soldiers adequately supplied? I think so.
(Source: EPA “Facts & Figures” data)

Did we let our troops fight without wartime necessities because nobody really asked us to DO anything? Sure, there are the signs, bumper stickers, etc. that yell “Support our Troops!” but what does that really mean? If someone had told you it meant recycling, would you have done it?

Maybe it’s time to make recycling a patriotic act…again. Recycle for your country, recycle for the troops! It’s your duty as an American, after all.

NOW: It’s 2008, we’ve still got troops in Iraq. We’ve still got families purchasing body armor for their sons and daughters with money out of their own pockets. The unmet needs of our troops overseas are still there.

Won’t you take a look at your garbage? Won’t you help us reduce, reuse and recycle?

I did take a look at my garbage. I produce less than a pound of waste each day. The average American produces about 7.5 pounds a week. However, you’ll never find a can, #1 or #2 plastic container, glass, any bit of cardboard, chipboard, or paper in my trash.

There’s a war on, don’t you know, and I’m doing my bit. Are you?

~ Sarah H


Above: Our recycling in the garage…

Below: Take a hint from the 1940s: carpool or ride a bike.


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