Thursday, November 29, 2007

Taking the green out of Christmas

The Journal was feeling eco-frisky today. The title says it all: "All I Want for Christmas Is a Compost Bin".

Are soy candles and spinning composters on your holiday list this year? A bevy of so-called green retailers are hoping so. With so much public attention on climate change and sky-high oil prices, these retailers are pitching energy-saving or recycled items that haven't traditionally been on most people's wish lists -- a low-energy desk lamp, for example. And while many retailers have boasted luxury wrapping in past years, companies are this year proffering natural and biodegradable packaging -- or none at all.
Once you get passed the attention-getting (and cringe-inducing) headline and lead, it's actually an insightful article.

There's a disconnect in my mind in using a season of decadence and consumption (which I freely and unabashedly revel in) and the concept of "going green". Austere living and eco-consciousness does seem a bit out of place.

And in one of the ongoing themes I continue to focus on at this blog, there's a great deal of confusion among consumers, which marketers are eagerly capitalizing on:
The word "green" is being used in marketing very broadly -- to define a water filter for example, because it cuts purchases of individual bottles of water. So some consumers may wonder which products make a real difference for the environment. The word "natural" can also fluster consumers. Textiles made from 100% natural cotton often mean that no dyes or chemicals were added to the cotton, but it doesn't guarantee the cotton was grown without the use of pesticides or other chemicals.

"Green still kind of means a bunch of things," says Adrien-Alice Hansel, a literary manager at a theater in Louisville, Ky., who is looking for eco-friendly gifts this year. "It can mean less energy than an alternative, but more energy than something else." Indeed, not buying an item can be the best bet for consuming less energy.

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