The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

61° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    The greening of the market

    Christina Jelly columnist
    Christina Jelly
    columnist

    Thanks in large part to mass media coverage – in movies like “”An Inconvenient Truth”” and in news coverage highlighting the global discourse on climate change – Americans have begun to embrace the so-called “”green movement”” with accelerating speed. We now drive more hybrid cars, consume more locally produced and organic foods, and even willingly purchase $195 organic cotton jeans – all in the name of saving our precious planet.

    Such socially responsible consumerism has been rendered trendy by celebrities proselytizing the merits of going green on the covers of Vanity Fair and other popular magazines. Buying our way into an eco-responsible lifestyle is appealing not only because it demonstrates our concern for the Earth – it also makes a fashionable statement.

    But the popular “”buy green”” mania has obscured the original intents of prudent environmental sustainability. The current spiel champions ethical consumerism: We don’t have to consume less now; we just have to consume the right products. However, making slightly different, and often more expensive, shopping decisions eclipses the idea of individual restraint as a means to sustainable living. The way to mitigate our environmental footprint is to curb our consumption patterns, not just supplant them with new ones.

    Doesn’t it seem counterintuitive to consume as a way to reduce your individual impact? Buying green has gained so much momentum because it requires less effort – shopping our way to environmental living is easier than fundamentally altering our consumption habits and ways of life.

    Earth-friendly consumerism is alluring because it makes a definitive statement – about you. Wearing hemp-fiber clothing, shopping at Wild Oats and driving a Toyota Prius illustrates your individual moral superiority. For example, Time magazine reported last year that more people purchase the Toyota Prius because it “”makes a statement about me”” rather than because the hybrid is more fuel-efficient. As a result, Toyota’s hybrid outsells its competitors because everyone knows it’s a hybrid car – what’s the point of driving a hybrid if no one knows you’re driving one?

    Sure, hybrid cars are commendable, but we should advocate driving less, rather than driving a different car, as the best instrument to individually combating climate change. Even if you and all your roommates drive fuel-efficient cars, how eco-sensible are you if each of you drives separately to campus every day?

    Unfortunately, the dubious intuitive reasoning supporting green consumerism is all too common. Big business, once the target of harsh scrutiny from the environmental lobby, has increasingly enjoyed environmental legitimacy thanks to PR gimmicks stressing their own eco-friendliness. Even President Bush is trying to highlight his environmental savvy; two weeks ago, he invited international cooperation during a summit on global climate change.

    Yet, both big business and the U.S. government have shown paradoxical reticence to cutting greenhouse gas emissions despite championing green values. We may be quick to criticize Bush and corporate America for their superficial commitment to environmental sustainability, but how committed are the rest of us?

    Admittedly, green consumerism is an admirable first step. Since we have to buy and use things to survive anyway, we might as well purchase items that are more environmentally sustainable. Though personal, consumer-based environmentalism may not be the answer, it will at least foster discourse which could lead to significant global change. Nevertheless, we need to embrace the classic environmental wisdom of moderation – drive less, buy less and use less. Only by checking our profligate consumption patterns can we open up the possibility of combating our collective complex and pervasive environmental problems.

    Christina Jelly is a senior majoring in biochemistry and philosophy. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

    More to Discover
    Activate Search