Writing in Mother Jones, Joel Makower waves the white flag.
Green consumerism, it seems, was one of those well-intended passing fancies, testament to Americans' never-ending quest for simple, quick, and efficient solutions to complex problems.
It's only a matter of time before...the public recognizes that for every pound of trash that ends up in municipal landfills, at least 40 more pounds are created upstream by industrial processes—and that a lot of this waste is far more dangerous to environmental and human health than our newspapers and grass clippings. At that point, the locus of concern could shift away from beverage containers, grocery bags, and the other mundane leftovers of daily life to what happens behind the scenes—the production, crating, storing, and shipping of the goods we buy and use.
Truth is, there's no reliable way of judging the environmental commitments of companies—all companies, not just the ecogroovy brands we know and love. Ecolabels, activist watchdogs, and governmental regulatory schemes can't tell us. They focus on what is in the product, but not on the upstream activities involved in producing it....
Indeed, our purchases of green-labeled goods may be lulling us into assuming that companies are on the case—that we can, as I posited 20 years ago, have a positive impact on the environment without significantly compromising our way of life. It turned out to be a false hope: that we could shop our way to environmental health.
Clearly, we can't. It's time for a new green consumer to step into the breach, insisting that companies green up more than just their marketing claims.
More in Mother Jones
Read also another take on recycling:
Recycling is Bullshit; Make Nov. 15 Zero Waste Day, not America Recycles Day