Are You Experiencing Green Fatigue?

Written by Joel

With the much needed increase in media exposure and discussion of green issues, a new problem has come to light. That of “green fatigue”. By that I mean are people getting tired of hearing the green message? Whilst it’s easy and quick to make small changes to your lifestyle and help the environment, is the constant stream of green messages reducing their effect?

Which environmental issues are the important ones? Who is telling the truth? What do their claims actually mean? What is “green”?

Dead leaf

Green encompasses everything from turning lights off to recycling and reducing your carbon footprint. What is a high level of being green and what a low? Which companies are independent and which are not? How do you know that planting a tree in Africa is actually a good thing? How do you know what a business claims are its green credentials are actually true and/or worthwhile?

It’s a very difficult balance to get right and there is currently no easy answer to any of these questions. Retailers are spending millions promoting their green credentials (Marks & Spencer in the UK are reportedly investing £200m to become a “greener business”), but is it a genuine effort to become green, or a marketing ploy to attract savvy consumers such as yourself? Can profit and shareholder driven companies actually be beneficial to the planet? Or at the least, less harmful?

With all the talk about green energy, carbon footprint labels, even green stocks and shares and green washing powder it’s easy to be confused or miss the point. For example, due to strict EU laws, most washing detergents in the EU aren’t (too) bad for the environment and much better than they used to be. Turning your machine down to 30 degrees celcius will have a much bigger impact than changing your washing powder. It’s all about direction and magnitude. Not all of our 100 ways to save the planet have equal effort or equal reward, but small efforts moving in the right direction will lead to bigger rewards.

The almost constant promotion of a company’s green credentials are not equal. Carbon offsetting (I have my own issues with that – to be discussed later!) is not the same as reducing energy consumption. Just because a company laudes the fact it now has 100 electric or hybrid vehicles doesn’t mean it has sound environmental policies in other areas. What is its position on recycling? What steps is it taking to not use energy at all (reduce) and reuse?

Live leaf

“Green fatigue” may affect some of us, but I actually view this as a good thing. I look forward to the day when you can’t move for green messages, where every company is doing all it can to reduce its impact on the environment, and who cares how much they shout about it? If people like YOU keep supporting companies that do respect and support the place in which they live, then maybe one day we will get there.

Do you agree or disagree? Please let us know by leaving a comment below. If you’d prefer you can contact us privately.


Comments

19 Responses to “Are You Experiencing Green Fatigue?”

  1. Kev

    I certainly do wonder sometimes about both the media’s and environmentalist’s portrayal of the need to make a few changes. Often global warming and the environmental status are shown as a doom and gloom, all-but-over situation. Whilst I think that taking such an approach may make people sit up and take notice, I also think it’s counter-productive in that it makes it seem like a chore. I can easily see people becoming green-fatigued with the weight of certain impending catastrophe on their shoulders. Perhaps if the companies and green organisations were to show people how wonderful nature is, and how it can be enjoyed, then maybe the same goal can be achieved as people will want to make the change without feeling like they’re only doing so because they have to.

  2. Adam

    Good point Kev (and Joel!). I’m not sure whether people will become fatigued with green issues or just accept them as normal which is the aim I suppose – time will tell. Hopefully the media and campaigners will give a more positive view of being green, but at the moment it’s more of a shock factor to try and get the message through to some people.

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  5. mandy

    I am experiencing green fatigue and it is something that has been have mentioned by others, a feeling of rebellion. I think the promoted global warming catastrophe did do a lot to change attitudes, but it is now being bandwagoned by companies who are doing their small bit as an advertising ploy (I personally think they can do a lot more) and overkilling the message.
    We are being pulled in all directions as to what is the best way to go and I agree carbon offsetting is not the same energy reduction.

  6. Joel

    Mandy – I think similar feelings are quite common, and the next couple of years will tell if companies really do mean what they say or whether it was all lip service.

  7. Val

    I find it very disheartening to read yet again that when a business, like ourselves, decides to take action, to change the way we work in order to reduce the negative impact on the environment from our business – we get accused of simply using it as a marketing ploy and paying lip service. Of course if we have evolved our service or product we shout about the fact to our clients or consumers – how else are we going to attract them to work with us rather than competitors who are not making an effort to change? I’ve no doubt there are companies paying lip service, but please don’t tar us all with the same brush.

  8. Joel

    Hi Val. Thanks for your comment, I certainly wasn’t accusing all businesses of using going green as a marketing ploy, and paying lip service, I was trying to put out the need to understand the intentions behind s few companies actions. I would be delighted if every company did a multitude of green actions in order to get more customers and help the environment, as then everyone’s a winner. I am writing a new article about how businesses have made a success of reducing their environmental impact, not only for the benefit of the environment, but their bottom line too. please feel free to contact me if you want to share your story.

  9. PlanetThoughts

    About “greenwashing”, I think that applies if 1) the actions taken by a company have minimal helpful effect on the environment, but are broadcast as a wonderful initiative (some feel that much of the carbon offset buying is like that), or 2) the action taken may be helpful, but the company has no intention of keeping the action underway, or perhaps is busy destroying the environment in a different section of the company, more than negating the positive gesture.

    What I do NOT think is that we should try to read peoples’ minds about their motives. If a company does a good action, and lets people know they did it without hyping the action excessively, I think we should respect that. Companies do need to earn profits to survive, and if they try to improve their operations while reaping a bit of customer good will, I think we are advancing along the path of changing the way the planet functions. Ultimately, we all need to come along, and every step in the right direction is a good step. Anyway, that is how I see it – just do the right thing, and don’t be obsessed with others’ motivations.

  10. Joel

    Hi, thanks for your comments. I think you’re completely right, and make some excellent points about corporate behaviour. Companies do have to earn profits but sometimes I think it’s right to be concerned on some occasions about their motivation and methods in doing so.

  11. Robert Hernreich

    I think there has been to much emphasis on offsetting instead of reducing. Big companies are willing to just pay for an offset instead of investing in reduction.

  12. PlanetThoughts

    Joel, I agree with you that a company simply stating that they now have carbon offsets, may not be and probably is not “good enough”. However, looking at motives may be counter-productive. Perhaps the middle ground is to engage that company, whether by writing a letter (for an individual) or by speaking to their CEO/COO (for a larger environmental organization) and discussing what additional things they can do, or how to make their action more effective. As there are more and more articles discussing the limits of carbon offsets, then fewer executives will use that as a ploy. By increasing citizen awareness (which is my main area of activity) and by engaging leaders of all types, we can gradually bring the world closer to the reality of what is needed for environmental health. It is a long path, but each step brings us closer to the goal, and each step increases our individual awareness and success in dealing with reality, as well.

  13. Joel

    Excellent points from all. It’s an area I need to become more involved with, it’s easy to sit back and complain – it’s more difficult to do something about it as it requires effort. It does work though and I’m going to make more effort to contribute rather than criticize. Well maybe I’ll do both….

  14. Simon T

    Hi All,
    I am glad I am not the only one who thinks this way. I am becoming cynical about some of the drives towards greenness. For example, Earth Hour which is happening today. Big Whizz about turning off the lights for an hour. What about using the Hour as a vehicle for educating people to turn appliances off stand-by and turning lights off regularly and other ways of being good. There seems to be so little benefit towards gaining all this awareness for that one hour, and does it leave people thinking they have made a big impact by turning lights off for one hour, once a year. I hope it doesn’t, but it wouldn’t surprise me if some feel this is the only contribution they need to make, and now they can consider themselves to be Greenies.

    I also like the fact that people are seeing that companies are saying one thing and doing another. For example, the Holden car company in Australia are making a 6.0L sports utility vehicle for sale in the U.S. under the Pontiac brand. Someone please explain when a 6.0L vehicle is ever necessary in a sports environment!?!?!? “Oh it needs to be such a big engine to carry my mountain bike around.”

    Holden even claims on their website they are environmentally responsible corporate citizens. Hell yeah! Any company that is providing such an environmentally irresponsible product because the consumers want it, despite it being inefficient and obviously wasteful, Hummers are another perfect example, are not good corporate citizens, they are environmental bullsh*tters.

    I am so sick of the Greenwashing of companies I want to scream. Please someone make them stop.

    Have a Green Day and a an organic night.

    Simon.

  15. Joel

    Thanks Simon. Greenwashing is an increasing factor of many businesses, and that being a prime example of one. However we still need to give credit where credit is due to companies that “talk the talk”, and individuals too. Small steps are important and hopefully for many Earth Hour might just be one of them.

  16. Simon T

    Joel
    I agree with you that those who talk the talk should be praised, and anyone who takes steps is doing the right thing. I just feel that Earth Hour is a great opportunity to motivate and change, and the full potential of such an event isn’t being seized upon. And beyond that I know a couple of people who have actually defended their position towards their environment impact by saying “I do my bit, I turned my lights off during Earth Hour”.

    That is why I think Earth Hour could go further. It should be more than just turning lights off.

    In regards to Holden (see earlier post if needed) and their overly wasteful cars, I got a response from them regarding an email I sent them about their 6.0L utility vehicles. They said all their vehicles meet Australian Standards for emissions, etc. Of course Australian Standards only address emissions quality regarding engine size. The Standards don’t assess the suitability or appropriateness of providing a 6.0L product to the public who have a 2.0L application. If 2.0L was marketed as the cool way to be, people would buy them, but if 6.0L is marketed as ‘cool’ then attitudes are not going to change. Further to this, producing a 6.0L car for a general use vehicle does not fall under the umbrella of environmental responsibility and good corporate citizenship which Holden’s website states is an aim they plan to meet. When action does not equal spiel, the answer is Greenwash.

  17. Joel

    As long as there is consumer demand for anything, people will sell it to them. However you’re so right with saying that “when action does not equal spiel” you get greenwashing. I think we’ll see people getting more and mroe aware of this and hopefully that’ll put pressure on certian companies to clean up their act.

  18. Elizabeth

    I think the message has to be that common in order for people to finally just get on board and participate. Companies are constantly surveying customers to get their feelings on this and I feel like we have a big say through this feedback in getting them to change and become more eco-friendly. They will listen and change if they think their customers will insist on it.

  19. Kelly Riordan

    Fatigue and obfuscation. You might be interested in an architectural firm in Seattle that claims to have practiced sustainable design since 1949. Check out http://mithun.com/about/

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