Green with consumer envy

Green with consumer envy

Two bits of wonderful news! One: the June issue of Toronto Life—the Green Edition, featuring a catalogue of fabulous, eco-friendly consumer items—is now on newsstands everywhere! Two: visitors to this blog no longer need a profile to post comments! Which is all just tickety-boo, because I have a pressing question to ask and I’d like a show of hands: am I the only skeptic left on this browning planet, or does anyone else find green consumerism grating?

I try to be attuned to the eco-friendliness of the things I need to buy, and I reluctantly admit that I found the magazine’s consumer guide more helpful than I thought it would be—most notably for the information about Greensaver’s energy audits and Habitat for Humanity’s reno-materials shop. I even admired the Enviro Casket, which struck me as the closest the funeral industry will let you get to a pine box these days. (True environmentalists are delighted by the thought of their return to ash and dust.)

It’s the prices for staple goods that stick in my craw. The words “organic” and “green” on any consumer label have become less about saving the planet and more about conspicuous consumption—a signifier of class rather than conscience. And so I have a few questions to offer for discussion:

– Given that organic food costs more, is society entering an era of a two-tier food supply, with one food source for the rich and one for the poor?- Can the same be said of most other staple goods? If the masses are forever priced out of the organic bed-linen market, does the planet gain anything at all? – Is it really any more environmentally sound to install a Jacuzzi made from recycled plastic? – Can the purchasing habits of the richest 10% of society save the planet? – Will Wal-Mart’s stocking of green and organic items fix everything? – Whatever happened to the idea that the most environmentally friendly consumer habit is to buy second-hand?

Just asking.