Monday, July 02, 2007

"Buying Into the Green Movement" in the NY Times


The New York Times printed an article today, "Buying Into the Green Movement," about how eco-consumerism is an oxymoron perpetuated by marketers and the media leading the mainstream public to think that if they're buying something labeled "organic" it's all good. As a retail shop that promotes sustainability, I thought it would be fitting to respond.

It's a good thing that American consumers are starting to understand about the advantages of low-watt light bulbs and organic fruit. But one message that doesn't seem to be getting through is that we need to generally consume less, and we can't simply buy our way out of environmental problems.

Of course, sometimes we do have to buy things. And sometimes we simply want to buy things. And that in itself isn't necessarily bad. What I don't understand is the idea of throwing away something that's perfectly good in order to replace it with something made from "green" materials. Or of companies marketing things as "green" that require more energy to produce than their "conventional" counterparts. Baffling.

We at Greenjeans obviously don't advocate zero consumption. That's impossible anyway. But we do advocate for slower consumption, and making more mindful choices. We believe in the power of dollar voting to change the nature of consumerism entirely. And we try to offer as many items as possible produced within a 150-mile radius to keep things local.

As we state in our FAQ:

"We believe that whenever possible people should buy high-quality things that will last for generations, not seasons. The less “disposable” merchandise we buy, the smaller our ecological footprint will be. We esteem the value of the handmade and the possibility of returning to slower consumption patterns.

"Also, it is our persistent goal to operate with a double bottom line: to make a profit and to be socially and environmentally responsible. We believe that capitalism can be used in the service of changing the world, and in our own small way that is what we’re trying to do.

"More tangibly, many objects in the shop are made from recycled or repurposed materials such as old wine barrel staves used to make folding chairs, old quilts used to make stuffed toys, and old men’s shirts sewn to make the curtain at the back of the shop. The artisans who make these objects are talented craftspeople using traditional skills in an unconventional way to produce beautiful functional art.

"Remember that shopping doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Every time you make a purchase, you are also casting a dollar vote. You are voting for a product, as well as how that product is produced, transported, marketed, and sold. A dollar spent at Greenjeans is a vote for integrity, sustainability, small-scale production, and independent small business."

I'm glad the Times printed this article. It's important for us all to be reminded that living sustainably is not as easy as we're sometimes led to believe, but instead relies on each of us to be well-informed, conscientious consumers.

(Photo sourced here.)

1 comment:

Mad said...

I am skeptical of the a"anti-consumer" stand because we are consumers. We are part of the eco-system of the planet which ingests, digests and egests. Even the thought that we buy only that which lasts is just inaccurate because the food we eat, the soap we use, the water we drink, so much that is very ephemeral ends up as healthy compost. I wonder if instead of viewing what we oughtn't do, but rather what we can shift into doing and thinking that will have a positive outcome is more productive for inspiring change.

What if we are able to make purchases of all kinds of things, clothing, housewares, whatever, that were fun to make for the maker, made a profit for said artisan/producer, was made from that which is renewable and when we are finished with it, it decomposes? As a potter, I do appreciate the moniker of heirloom but the temporary has a place in human desire and that must not be denied.

I recently heard it suggested that while we use only 4 percent of our brain, the other 94 percent is for pleasure. Maybe we need to be willing to have more pleasure, more happiness and less guilt.