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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Meaning of Green...To Me

In honor of Earth Day, I share with you here my article titled "The meaning of green... to me" from the November 3/10, 2008 issue of Floor Covering Weekly.

I love green. I vacillate between teal green and acid green. Currently, I’ve settled on spring green; intense in its energy, soothing in the promise it suggests, and inspiring in how it enables me to concentrate. But, that’s me.

Green used to be a private color. It’s now a public color with added meaning about our planet, the environment, sustainability, and hope for the future -- all positive associations, but also abstract ones open to interpretation.

Unfortunately, something happens when you combine a multitude of interpretations of green with too many calls-to-action that businesses and goodwill organizations have issued in the name of green. Confusion ensues.

My solution – and that of most people around me – is to develop my own definition. One that aligns itself with what’s within my control and benefits my constituents: my family and community.

That means that I recycle with gusto – paper and comingled cans and bottles - I’ve been doing so for at least 20 years. I prefer not to purchase bottled water. I used to compost, but now it attracts bears and raccoons. I use public transportation exclusively whenever possible – except where I live. We have no sidewalks, no local jitney and enough hills to discourage the practical cyclist. However, I hike with my family on weekends, thereby avoiding the malls.

I object to SUVs [a.k.a., Urban Assault Vehicles], preferring high performance sedans. I would love to drive a Mini Cooper some day. In principle, hybrids appeal to me. Unfortunately, what’s available doesn’t’ match my self-image. That doesn’t make me a bad person. I’ve cut back on unnecessary car outings and, when I do drive, I maximize my MPG like you wouldn’t believe. Shame on those people who accelerate irresponsibly to pass me!

When it comes to green claims from corporate entities, I’m predisposed to skepticism. How can I trust the claims I hear? They seem overly self-interested. I wonder if all of this isn’t meant to deliberately distract me from what matters.

What about quality, for example. Quality matters. Quality means that something will last, won’t disintegrate before my very eyes, will delight me and provide me with peace-of-mind and beauty over an extended period of time. Quality is why I’m willing to pay more for better tailoring, materials and construction in a business suit, or why I feel so strongly about the iPhone and my high-performance car.

And what about longer term or big picture? That definitely matters. My definition of green includes long term solutions that require that we all radically change how we think, act, do, live, drive. They necessitate that we work together across families, communities, political parties, nationalities, geographies.

Green has the potential to reinvent the world and reverse economic woes, requiring – and justifying – the kind of breakthrough thinking that can transform society, businesses, even retail experiences. Think about it. I have.

I want to be astounded by new retail models, particularly in flooring, about solar powered cars and home-specific wind-powered electrical generators. I’m pumped about spinning bikes that generate power for the grid. I want to eliminate global hunger and carpet the way for world peace. I want consumers to encounter memorable customer service, and for everyone to have access to the Internet. I want us to stop wasting resources. I also want to be part of the solution and I’m pitching in via the means I have access to and control over. Won’t you do the same?

Speak to me about the big picture and how you and your products can truly create value into the future. Tell me how you are making a difference as an individual and an organization. Please be transparent and truthful about what you say and do. I’ll do the same.

Make it easy for me to compare what you do to what others do. Make sure it’s believable – as I will check your claims and if you are deliberately tricking or confusing me, I will never trust you again. But, if you’re authentic in expressing your passion and pay attention to what matters to me, they I will welcome you into my community and help you.

Together we can make a difference. Together, we can create meaningful meaning for green.

Related articles:

+ Study: 'Green' Products Leave Consumers Puzzled from 7/15/2008 Brandweek

+ Product Labels: Missed Marketing Opportunity from 3/31/2009 Media Post News suggests that marketers tell consumers the story behind a sustainable product to help connect value with quality.

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Andrea Learned said...

Our lifestyles and "green" efforts are similar, CB - though I have the luxury of living in very bike-able Burlington. As a consumer, and perhaps all the more as a marketer, I - too - am predisposed to general skepticism on this front. I love it when a brand really comes through (substance as well as promo) - but mainly am peeling back layers, walking, composting, recycling, and using a lot more baking soda and vinegar as cleaning solution. Thanks for this great take!

Blake Landau said...

I really liked this post. Beautifully written. I like your discussion of transparency. I think we are seeing a new value-system make its way into the mainstream after years and years of inauthenticity. As a younger person this is the first major recession I have lived through. It's fascinating to watch the current societal transformation-however painful it may be. There is a change in the waters and it's not the toxicity that Erin Brokovitch saw...

CB Whittemore said...

Andrea, I love hearing what green means to you. Thanks for sharing.

CB Whittemore said...

Blake, I agree with you. Despite all of the turmoil and messiness around, there's an optimism and renewed sense of purpose and value that is coming out of all this. I like it and find it inspiring. I love hearing that you are inspired by it, too. Thanks for visiting and sharing your perspective.

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Reminder: Please, no self-promotional or SPAM comments. Don't bother if you're simply trying to build inauthentic link juice. Finally, don't be anonymous: it's too hard to have a conversation. Thanks, CB

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