We enjoy looking for, and perhaps even presenting ourselves, challenging ideas for our readers. And one idea we came across challenges our desires to find just the right holiday gift for a loved one while maintaining our green/environmentalist cred. Piers Fawkes, founder and CEO of the New-York based firm, argues in a recent blog post that ‘buying green’ this holiday season really misses the boat when it comes to helping the environment or changing the habits of businesses.
Are we indeed doing more harm than good when we buy from those ‘Green Gift Guides’ that show up in many of our (e)mail inboxes?
Though Piers might not be Mr. Scrooge, he certainly takes to task those of us (yes, this writer included) who strive with our individual efforts to shop with an environmentalist’s conscience:
What has happened to the environmental movement? It seems to be all about top 10 green-product lists and there’s little about who’s really causing damage-to our planet.
Blogs and magazines seem to be keen to wave the latest cool eco-packaging ideas in front of our noses but ignore the deeper environmental issues at the companies that are making the products that are wrapped in it.
The focus needs to be not on individuals’ periodic purchasing choices, but on government policies and the companies who make (at best) periodic efforts to present themselves as ‘green’:
Could the writing of some green bloggers and journalists be damaging to the environment because their focus on the individual lets corporations off the hook? The green media needs to stop telling people to buy cool stuff that’s labeled organic or BPA-free, and they need to start helping people identify who is at fault here so that people can actively lobby the companies folks buy from, or the employers people work for.
He contrasts the naiveté (my word) of buying green in the hopes it will change the market (by changing companies’ commitments to environmentally-friendly products and services) with the efforts to boycott any products from South Africa in the late 1970s and 1980s in an effort to stop apartheid. “While I acknowledge that there’s debate about whether the boycott accelerated change to cause apartheid to end, the fact is that the noise the boycott made in everyday people’s ears changed people’s minds. It makes me ask why can’t we have a movement as big as the one against South African goods, happen against climate deniers and polluters today?”
His challenge must be met, but as the many informed comments to his post note, people will continue to buy gifts – so why not encourage them buy eco-friendly ones? This blogger would only add that he remembers when the call to boycott South Africa’s exports and services was made only by a few individual students on those ‘lefty’ college campuses. Yet they went on to help change expectations, and policies.
Maybe the efforts to get enviromentally friendly gifts – certainly a minuscule part of the economy – will draw ever more individuals into a growing voice to boycott industries that wreak havoc on our planet? A bit naively optimistic, I admit. And plenty of evidence argues that we don’t have decades to wait around before taking action. Pier’s call-to-action makes for sobering reading as we make out our lists and check them twice.