The Bastardization of Green

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Greenwashing, Lindsay Vidrine | Posted on 05-05-2009


by Lindsay Vidrine


Untitled1 Do you remember when green was just a color? It was taught
to children as a middle initial in the ROY G. BIV spectrum, and Kermit the Frog innocently sang about the trials and tribulations of being green. 


The word green has had quite a linguistic run. A Wikipedia search reveals some of the emotional, cultural and political definitions green
has carried over the years in addition to being a color:


The word green is closely related to the Old English verb
growan, “to grow.” It is used to describe plants or the ocean. Sometimes it can
also describe someone who is inexperienced, jealous, or sick. In America, green
is a slang term for money, among other things. Several colloquialisms have
derived from these meanings, such as “green around the gills,” a phrase used to
describe a person who looks ill.


It’s amazing how one five letter word can convey everything
from envy to cash to plants and vegetables to sustainability. Even our blog
name contributes to these semantics.


On top of all of that, green has also become an entire
movement. So does this word still hold value, or is it now diluted,
commercialized branding jargon? Just Google the term green washing and you’ll find 11 million hits (in only .19 seconds
by the way).


All of these definitions don’t even begin to delve into the
fact that individuals also have their own perceptions and associations with the
words like green, as well as others. If someone or something is described as
green, conservative, liberal, granola, right- or left-wing, peak oil or so on, you
immediately bring your own associations into your understanding however
accurate they may or may not be.


So as a group interested in sustainability and the Green Movement,
how do we overcome this word pollution while staying on message and not
alienating anyone?


Kermit may have been right all along. It’s not easy being
green, but if the conservative town of Greensburg, KS can do it, why can’t we?
Their panel at the OSN Annual Conference discussed that when the idea of
rebuilding sustainably came up it wasn’t politically charged. It was about
human preservation and was deeply rooted in their agricultural values and
connection to the land that has spanned many generations.


That got me interested in learning about how others view
sustainability, regardless of our differences, political, geographical,
financial, cultural, etc. I came across these interesting articles and blogs:


How to Create Change in a Conservative Culture
Liberal Isn't a Dirty Word; "conservative" Isn't

Terra Rossa – Where Conservatives Consider a New Energy Future
A Perspective on Earth Day from a green Christian


One take away I had was that once you get past some of the
alarmism and trigger words, both liberals and conservatives may actually share
similar views on animal rights, energy issues and (dare I say) climate change.


So whether the challenge is keeping value in the words green
and sustainability or learning how to best communicate to those on the opposite
side of the aisle, it’s important that we think about our words and
communication methods.


It may be the difference between change coming at a glacial
pace or a groundswell.