Buy green? How about buy nothing

I have been a marketer for more than 20 years, and appreciate the importance of marketing for any organization. I also count myself among those aspiring to a truly sustainable lifestyle. So why would I have any bone to pick with marketers of green goods and services? Because too many of them want us to think green consumption is harmless, maybe even good for our planet.

I like what Alex Steffen, the executive editor of, told the New York Times on Sunday: “There is a very common mind-set right now which holds that all that we’re going to need to do to avert the large-scale planetary catastrophes upon us is make slightly different shopping decisions.”

In other words, we’re being urged by many green marketers to buy a hybrid, vacation in an eco-friendly overseas resort, purchase organic cotton clothing, install a solar panel on our second home, when in fact we should be selling our cars, limiting our air travel, buying less clothing (and other stuff) and owning only one home (and a small one at that).

As New York Times reporter Alex Williams writes in the same piece, “It’s as though the millions of people whom environmentalists have successfully prodded to be concerned about climate change are experiencing a SnackWell’s moment: confronted with a box of fat-free devil’s food chocolate cookies, which seem deliciously guilt-free, they consume the entire box, avoiding any fats but loading up on calories.”

The tough thing isn’t switching to a fat-free snack, it’s doing without the snack altogether. We don’t just need to consume more green stuff and less bad stuff. We need to consume less. Period. Bring on the companies that see a way to make their mark and their income from “non-consumption.” If I had my way, that’s what green marketing would be all about.

July 3rd, 2007

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