When Do We Declare that a Company has "Gone Green?"

This could be a first -- a post on Hugg has generated a debate on one of the major green blogs. One Wednesday, December 13, prolific Hugger linton posted an item declaring "EPSON GOES GREEN!!!!!," which linked to a press release promoting the electronics manufacturer's "[plan] to change the packaging for its large format printer (LFP) ink cartridges from white cardboard to 100% recycled brown cardboard (kraft cardboard) and to standardize packaging specifications worldwide." The following day, Joel Makower took up linton's post on his "Two Step Forward" blog:

Today, it was a posting on Hugg, "a user-driven social content site," in the parlance of the Web. (Or, for Webheads, a "green Digg.") Hugg, produced by my friends at Treehugger, encourages users to post articles, blog entries, video clips, and other items of interest on green topics. Users show their support for the entries by "hugging" them.

This entry caught my eye:

EPSON GOES GREEN!!!!!!

Intriguing, to say the least, for those of us who follow corporate environmental initiatives. Reading further, and clicking through to the source story, revealed that Epson's revolutionary "greening" stemmed from its announcement that it plans to

change the packaging for its large format printer (LFP) ink cartridges from white cardboard to 100% recycled brown cardboard (kraft cardboard) and to standardize packaging specifications worldwide.

To be fair, the company also said it will "change the plastic used in ink cartridge casings from gray to a natural color."

Epson deserves credit for this, of course, but I doubt that even the most ardent of its PR staffers would claim that the company has "gone green" (never mind the half-dozen exclamation points). This is, at best, a small step in a committed company's earnest efforts to reduce its environmental footprint.

Joel's post spurred a discussion on his blog, which garnered another post on Hugg, which led to a response from linton declaring "I SUCK BIG TIME!"

We don't think you suck, linton, and we're pretty sure that's not what Joel was saying, either. Rather, this exchange has created an important discussion here in the green blogosphere: at what point has a company "gone green?" Should we only say, as JiltedCitizen suggests, that a company is "going green," which emphasizes movement towards a goal, rather than reaching the goal itself? Or, should we simply avoid these kinds of labels, and focus on judging these individual decisions, as well as practices that are decidedly "un-green" (or brown, maybe)? Do we reserve the title of "green" for those companies that have made it a core part of their business? How do we decide when they've done that? Finally, what actions by major corporations deserves the enthusiastic support of treehuggers? Which ones deserve... well, a bit less?

These kinds of discussions are certain to arise as large corporations take steps (many of them small) towards more eco-conscious ways of producing and marketing products and services. We think they're discussions worth having. As always, we invite you into the fray!

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