Oxymoron of the Day: Green Consumer

Consume = use up = unsustainable. Nuff said?

Yes, yes, yes, I know, I know, of course it’s a good thing that people are becoming more conscious of the impacts of their purchases. But, call me a curmudgeon (or worse), I just can’t stand marketing verbage like this:

Green Festival, the largest and most authentic green consumer event in the world.”

How sad that even the folks who are out there working so hard to promote green lifestyles are still propagating our culture’s perverse view that a person is nothing more than a consumer. Because that’s precisely the attitude we have to lose if we ever hope to create a truly sustainable society. Calling someone a consumer should be an insult.

I don’t mean to bash Green Festival — they’re doing great work. But what keeps niggling away at me is this impression that the popular green movement is creating a false sense of complacency, that if we could all just become green consumers everything will be OK and we won’t have to make any major changes or serious sacrifices. To put that in perspective, witness the mass howling that ensues when, for example, it is proposed that car capacity be reduced in order to encourage more sustainable modes of transportation.

And then at times I think to myself, “just relax, people are changing, it’s all good.” But even Alan Durning of Sightline, known for his restrained wisdom and positive attitude, apparently isn’t letting people off the hook that easily, to judge by this quote in a recent Seattle PI article about green building:

“People are capable of holding wildly contradictory beliefs. There is this sort of pastoral ideal that you will live in a place set in parkland like French royalty, and you are a good responsible REI member, and green Northwesterner. So your Land Rover has mute Earth tones, and you probably buy organic pet food for your Labrador retriever.”