I gave a talk at LA Green Festival on Saturday. It was an update on a guest post by my colleague Jerry Stifelman entitled Greenhushing Doesn't Help Anyone: Why Green Businesses Must Speak Up, arguing that it is as important for green businesses and organizations to communicate effectively about the good they are doing as it is to actually do it.
It is only through cultural change that we will achieve the kind of systemic transformation we need. And that cultural change can only happen if we make ourselves heard.
After the talk, an audience member brought up the notion of "green fatigue" - can we really talk about sustainability and "being green" to a society that is currently more preoccupied with job security?
Relevance is Everything
My argument was that we can, but that we have to make our case relevant to people's concerns. From energy prices as a true cause of the recession to the self-perpetuating trap of high gas prices, the writing is on the wall for our current economic paradigm. And people are increasingly realizing that.
The Term Green Will Go Away
After my talk, I attended a panel discussion that included fellow TreeHugger Jerry James Stone. During that talk, another audience member brought up green fatigue. And Jerry's response clarified something I had been struggling to articulate.
"If I do my job right," he said, "the term green will go away. There will be no green tech. Tech will just be green because it's a better way of doing things."
Jerry went on to argue that "green" is all to often thought of as a vertical—when really it's a horizontal. There is no singular "green" lifestyle or "green" industry—there are just ways to apply better, more sustainable, more innovative and more common-sense approaches to every single aspect of our lives.
We currently have an unprecedented opportunity to engage people in conversation about genuine change. But we may be better off abandoning the notion of "green" all together as we do so.
Saving the World, One Cliche At a Time
I am a big fan of events like the Green Festival, but walking around and viewing the booths was a powerful reminder that most companies and organizations in the "green" world are very poor communicators. They rely on imagery and content that helps them blend in, not stand out, and they do so in a way that guarantees they are only preaching to the converted. (See Jerry's other guest post on why originality matters
for more on that one.)
Not Green. Just Better.
So as our culture becomes increasingly open to alternatives, we have to up our game and move out of our comfortable niche. Let's engage in that conversation not as a "green movement" trying to promote its "green agenda", but as part of a broader community of innovators who see opportunity for improvement in almost everything that we do. From collaborative consumption to living with less; from innovative backyard SPIN farming to intelligent, zero carbon homes; and from local investing to a Plenitude Economy; there are countless ways that we can begin to address the problems we face.
But let's stop calling these things green. They're just better.