4 Reasons Why Green is Good, But Isn't Always Better

By Linsey Knerl on 24 August 2008 13 comments

I'm all for taking care of the world around us. In fact, it surprises my friends and family when I share my enthusiasm for sustainability and wise use of our natural resources. Is it possible, however, that we've taken “green” issues at more than their face value? Do we accidentally limit our discernment and give false credence to anything that calls itself “globally-aware”? Of course. And here are four ways we sell ourselves short by sporting those green-colored glasses.

We give credit where it isn't due. I recently reviewed the most horrible children's book. It was pitched to me as a “green” book designed to teach children about clean habits and hybrid cars. Unfortunately, it was lame. There was an unbelievable plot, thin characters, and sub par illustrations. I tried to love this book because I believed in the values it taught, but I just couldn't get behind its credibility as a children's story. I often see other book reviewers giving this book the highest praises for its innovative approach at teaching kids green values, and I'm confused. Since when is it OK to lower our standards for an agenda (no matter how valid that agenda may be?)

We overlook other vital teachings. Before the green movement was popular in my area, we still picked up trash at the local park. We called it “being a good neighbor.” We also recycled our cans and bottles. It was considered a “good return on an investment.” We used as little water as possible, often employing rain barrels and mulch to keep our usage low. We called it “being a good steward of the resources we were given.” Today we speak of many of the same practices. We teach our children the exact same ideals, but not for the reasons we did before. Now it is “good for our earth and good for our environment.” I'll agree. I just hope that we don't forget to pass on other important life lessons because they now conveniently fall under this “eco-umbrella.”

We believe everything. The term “greenwashing” was invented for a reason. It is all too tempting to get a piece of the pie by rebranding a product or service under an earth-friendly name. Everywhere you look, big brands are switching formulas, packaging, and advertising to signal their official entrance into this global initiative. We just need to be careful who we believe. By taking the time to dig deep and evaluate each product for what it really is, we can keep our wits about us in this fast-changing world. Who knows? Maybe your old standby has actually been more “green” all along.

We become divided. I have never attended an Earth-day rally. I don't buy organic vegetables. At first glance, it would appear that I am on the other side of the fence from my more environmentally-active friends. If you took a second look, however, you would see that there are simply no Earth-day rallies near me, and the gas used to get there would be costly and wasteful. I grow my own vegetables (in an organic fashion.) I recycle what I can. I take the clippings from my neighbors and use them in my garden. I own free-range chickens and use rain water for my flowers. I'm more eco-aware than you would think, but I've just never applied the label. Most people are beginning to think like me (and like you.) We are not all that different. I don't need a t-shirt or a club to tell me that we have the same ideals and goals. Let's try to remember that “green” is less about being part of something and more about doing your part.

It's exciting to explore all the ways we can take care of our planet, and I feel encouraged to know that so many people care. Let's keep it in perspective when we move into the next few years, and remember that it's nice to feel good but it feels better to do good!

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Guest's picture

I agree totally - if green products want to be successful, they need to be as high quality, or of even higher quality than the products they are designed to replace.

Guest's picture

Being Frugal is Being Green! The problem facing the planet is over consumption. Frugality is reducing your consumption.

Therefore, when you practice a frugal lifestyle, you are in essence, living a green lifestyle as well.

Keep it up!

Linsey Knerl's picture

You said it very well!  Except in cases where extreme frugality leads to overshopping (even buying a billion bottles of FREE shampoo you will never use can be wasteful), I agree.  Thanks for the comments!

Guest's picture

I agree with you that "green is less about being part of something and more about doing your part." Unfortunately, the "green movement" is more about telling people what to do and pushing a socialist political agenda, and has almost nothing to do with personal responsibilty.


Guest's picture

You've made some excellent points in this article.

Regarding frugality and over consumption, it makes me cringe to see the switch to more efficient vehicles pitched as a "green" change. Vehicle production requires a huge amount of energy, probably quite a bit more than is saved by increasing the mpg. Plus, replacing an otherwise serviceable vehicle is not always a frugal move--$22,000 for a Prius would buy a lot of gas for an existing car.

Myscha Theriault's picture

I for one am glad you raised the stewardship point. It's important to let kids know there are other grown up reasons as well for doing their part. Every family has only so many resources to go around, and stewardship is a huge part of managing those resources.

Guest's picture

Very nicely done! I agree on every point. Many times "green" overlaps with some other value I hold, a kind of "win-win", but there's a balance to find in most every situation. It's easy to get tunnel vision and get too focused on one aspect of something and lose sight of the bigger picture. Sorry this is sounding trite, not nearly as well expressed as Linsey's post. Good job, Linsey.

Guest's picture

I loved the point you made about how recycling has become a trend now and no longer something that we use to teach simple, human, lessons (like 'pick up after yourself')


Guest's picture

Great article, and the end alludes to a point that bothers me a lot-- It seems like these days being "green" is a status symbol. Like "I am better than you because I do x-y-z." Hybrid cars, as Marion mentioned, are a great example of this, especially since there's usually a less-green ulterior motive that accompanies a hybrid purchase (*cough* savings on gas prices).

I once saw a bumper sticker that said "I <3 My Hybrid." And it really frustrated me a lot. It just seems like a lot of people think it's more important to be seen as "green" than to just spend their time practicing it.

Guest's picture
David C

Very well put. At our house we do the little things. We watch our money, drive the cars in an efficient manner, use cl bulbs; you know, the typical rap. Thing is; little stuff adds up and makes a huge difference. One does not have to be financially well off to make a meaningful impact; and for a lot of us the small things are all we can do. As the demand for better engineering comes along and various consumer goods need actual replacement it will cost less to move into those better products. (technology bringing down cost) All we have to do is encourage our trendsetters to desire greener products. Then we wait, eventually prices of these great new wisbang items will be affordable.

Guest's picture
mike k

what gets me is people who proclaim "green"ness in their lives, go out and buy a prius and use cfl bulbs without realizing that the prius is the most harmful vehicle on the planet (what happens to the lead batteries after they've worn out their use? that's right, straight to the dump. after only 4 years or so!), and that cfl bulbs are so hazardous to humans and the environment that sensible scientists are warning people not to inhale the gas from a broken bulb, or dispose of them haphazardly (the mercury in those things will mess you up!).

Linsey Knerl's picture

On the long term effects of many green initiatives (hybrids, CFL's were mentioned), I think that the important thing is to stay focused on the entire reason the "green" movement was originally created.  Yes, there is agenda.  No, we may not all agree on the best way to keep our planet clean.  But by practicing the simple courtesies that people have been charged with since the beginning of time, we can fulfill our responsibilities easily by remembering to treat one another with dignity and respect.  Like my 4-year-old says, "This place would be a mess if we didn't pick up after ourselves."  (Playroom or planet - makes no difference.)  Thanks so much for all the kind feedback!

Guest's picture

There is still much work to be done to have a green world but I believe things are in motion, I'm not sure how well in motion.

For sure some companies profit from this movement and they may not be as green as they say. We need to check everything before we buy it.