Green about the Gills

If Oprah says “go green!”, then what is a person supposed to do?  We go green. In fact, we are going so green so fast that for the most part we don’t even know what we are doing.  Survey after survey confirms two very interesting and conflicting findings:

1.  Consumers are going green.
2.  Consumers have no idea what “green” means.
And it’s not just the term green; most consumers can not distinguish between environmentally friendly, environmentally safe, eco, natural and sustainable (among 20 other triggers that indicate a product is good for humans and the environment).  And it is not their fault.
This may come as a shock, but consumers are being mislead by a whole lot of people – like manufacturers and retailers and marketers and industry analysts and associations and the media.  But it is not their fault either.
At the end of the day (and it pains me to even think this, as I am a “less is more” kind of guy when it comes to the government), the federal government really needs to step up to the plate soon on the issue of “green.” 
The EPA’s DfE program is nice, as are all the other industry  “certification” and “seal” programs designed to help manufacturers and consumers and all the groups in between.  But none of it has any real value.  Until the federal government, using scientific support, establishes truly meaningful guidelines, we all may as well be playing lawn darts in the dark. 
But is that really likely to happen?  (uh, no) Consider that the U.S. FDA refuses to even attempt to define “natural,” citing limited resources and lack of consumer interest as primary excuses.
Truth is, we better all buy flashlights so we can see where the Jarts are coming from.  If we are counting on the government to solve this, then we will only be disappointed.  Which brings us back to the manufacturers and the marketers and the analysts and the industry associations and the watchdog groups and the media and the consumers.
If consumers – first individually and then collectively – begin demanding (with their wallets) that manufacturers be clearer and more explicit with their green promises, the dominoes will begin to fall in a logical sequence.  And since the media in general are already growing weary and wary of green claims, they will be more than happy to encourage consumers and report exclusively on manufacturers with a real story to tell (one that is backed up with scientific evidence).  
In the meantime, the idea of going “green” is a good one.  Even if Al Gore is wrong…  Even if the climate change is only temporary or isn’t caused by a dirty environment… It can not hurt to heave a healthier, less toxic planet.