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What is Green?



I realized walking to work the other morning that it’s incredible we haven’t discussed this yet.  Here we are convening at One Green Generation, and we haven’t defined green, or even debated green.

Well I think it’s high time we do just that!

When I hear the word “green” I often think about products – cereal boxes, a Prius, organic wine.  There’s a term green washing that many of us have heard.  Essentially, companies want to get in on the green bandwagon and will sport a new green marketing campaign in order to gain that competitive edge – despite their not really being green or sustainable.

I live in the Emerald City of the Evergreen State – the green here is trees, parks, nature’s beautiful green.  That is a part of what we fight for, isn’t it?  Green, beauty, life, nature?

I have been somewhat of an environmentalist since I took my first environmental studies class in college… or was it before that, when my sister, father, and I gathered aluminum cans and took them down to the recycling depot every month – and we stacked piles of newspapers in our basement until someone had a newspaper drive?  In college I was militant, trying as hard as I could not to leave an impact – and (here’s the militant part) expecting everyone else to be the same way and decrying them if they weren’t!  

Once green became so normalized a couple years ago, I moved on to “sustainable.”  We try to live as sustainably as we can – I often write about the ways we do that.  Emotionally, physically, environmentally, economically, and socioculturally sustainable.  But One Sustainable Generation didn’t quite have the same ring to it.  And truthfully, I wanted to reach out to people who were new to this, who hadn’t come to terms with sustainability, who were still back at the basics of lifestyle change:  Readers who are still green when it comes to sustainability.  And readers who are watching their (green) money in this economy and might be coming here to find ways to be frugal.  And readers who want to put a little (green) garden in their backyard, and come here to learn how to do that.

But the name of this website doesn’t matter so much as the accessibility.  We all need to change and grow and do things differently.  How we do that will be different for each of us, depending on our time, our location, our skills, and our desires.  Green isn’t a scary word to me, and to most people.  It is an accessible word, an attainable word.  

For us all to be sustainable is a lofty, ambitious, and necessary goal.  But first, let’s try for green – wouldn’t the world be better for all coming together as one green generation?  So my hope is to try for that, and once we get there we’ll see where we can go together next.

Oh, and of course, green is also one of my two favorite colors.

I’d Love to Know:  What Does Green Mean to You?

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17 comments to What is Green?

  • What’s the other color? Mine is brown ;)

    To me, what I’m arguing for when I argue “green” is living within our means. I view my own financial affairs as an adequate metaphor for the difficulties we will face from dependency on coal, oil, gas, and the spewing of unlimited poisonous exhaust from burning them.

    Personally, not to exceed my income, as in reducing and eliminating debt.

    Socially, not to exceed our income, as in reducing and eliminating local, state, or national debt. Also, see Plato, The Republic, on whether there can be such a thing as a just war, and what this has to do with the owning of luxuries.

    Geocentrically, not to exceed our income, as in reducing and eliminating carbon debt: clean air, clean water, clean soil, clean oceans, plant and animal diversity, clean food, clean living, supportable transportation and dwellings.

    I admire the Transition movement accordingly. Nobody, I suppose, within an industrial civilization, is perfectly “green,” but at least they are thinking these things through.

  • “Green” to me is living in harmony with the earth. Trying to give as much as we take from her resources and all that call her home.

    “Green” is saying, I’m not the only one on this planet and I’m committed to sharing it with everyone (and everything) else.

    My journey started 11 years ago in an effort to simplify my life – reducing expenses so that I could work less and live more. Quite naturally, a life of simplicity (becoming more mindful about the way I consume) became a “green” lifestyle, and later like yours, one of sustainability.

  • green is a co-opted brand

    green should be about living in a way that empowers you, and offers your co-habitants on the planet an equal share. It offers future generations a better world.

    Green shouldn’t be about what you consume, but what you produce.

    The first step is realizing that you have a choice
    the second is taking a full accounting of that choice.

  • Well, my first inclination is that Green is something big and general and may not be possible to define in an easy way – something such as Love or Happy maybe. I did just post on my blog about my personal take on what’s going on and what I see as positive moves towards being “green”. Would love to hear what you think.

  • Green is a word that describes a chosen lifestyle- some folks come about it naturally, some come about it through trial and error. I know some shudder at the word- but to me it is just a word that describes Natural things- and eco-things as well. I may use it a bit much, but it’s better than some of the words I use.

  • I like sustainable better than green because it is more descriptive, but think green is okay. It does sound better for a blog name. :)

  • I’m a cynic. The whole “green” thing to me is mostly a HUGE marketing gimmick to make guilt ridden souls feel like they aren’t as wasteful as they really are when they purchase an “organic” latte. I’ve most likely stirred the majority of readers into thinking that I am a beast. Cest La Vie.

    No. I’m not a coorporate, white, Republican. I’m just someone that makes observations. Mind you, I grow my own with the determination to make myself self reliant. I do the best I can to grow healthy and healthful produce all the while knowing that the bugs and birds outnumber me.

    I’ll just add “green” to the words and terms that puzzle me:
    warm & inviting
    public option

    I do love learning from you all. Amen

  • “Green” is a term to manipulate folks into feeling guilty for living and to advance political and monetary expediency. Just look at Al Gore, who is getting rich by selling carbon credits based on his global warming fearmongering. Just look at the Cap and Tax (oops, trade) Bill, which is essentially a direct tax on energy. The government just nationalized the car companies and imposed virtually impossible mileage requirements so they can retain control when they don’t perform. “Green” is a boondoggle for money and power.

  • Green to me was in stories from the Draft Horse Journal.

    1) Nordeens in Pennsylvania, about biointensive farming. It seems their farm got insufficient rain for most purposes – mostly a valley. They farmed 6 acres atop a ridge above their place, in 1/2 acre strips. At any given time, half the strips were fallow. They used cover crops and crop rotation to manage insect and weed pests, and to eliminate a need for industrial fertilizer.

    They use a pig and chickens to pick over the compost in their barn, and three pen “areas” to accumulate and turn the compost. And used some compost to help heat their greenhouse to get seeds started, etc.

    Their organic approach and good farming skills let them in on a good niche of local truck gardening – providing fresh vegetables to local restaurants and caterers.

    2) An area along a river in Arizona had, during a flood the preceding river, accumulated a sizable jam of downed trees above the river bank. One family got the contract to clear out the jam – using draft horse teams to drag the removed wood to where it was to be left to decompose as habitat and to avoid depleting the soil in the area. Because they used horses, there was no need for a truck or caterpillar road.

    Others also log with horses – though a friend from Jackson County, TN, claimes that on hillsides oxen (steers at least four years old, trained to pull, any breed of cow) are preferred because they are surer footed.

    3) A family in Oregon is living off the family lumber lot. Sustainably. They manage each tree, harvesting where there is damage to the tree or where removal would benefit the rest of the trees. Avoiding whole scale logging has kept this third-generation family endeavor about the same level of growth and population of trees as when they started.

    Green washing, I guess today’s version of what was known as whitewashing, is abhorrent to me. When I look at electric vehicles, what I see is manufacturing energy and transportation energy expended where the only “need” was likely to trade cars before the old one hit two years or 100k miles, or some arbitrary target. A greener vehicle would be like the 20 year old plus El Camino given a new live by replacing the engine with batteries and an electric motor – except the batteries were new, were about $38,000 worth, and seemed exotic – that is, it will likely be a problem to dispose of them safely in case of damage or end of life.

    I would have thought spent nuclear fuel, in 30 years, would have taught us about producing things we dare not discard.

    When I look at an EV, I also see additional electric demand. I imagine that one could measure the amount of electricity needed to drive 100 miles, and use an average coal-fired power plant rate of coal burned to kilowatt hours of electricity produced, factor in average power loss between a distant power plant and the car, and arrive at a number of pounds of carbon per kilowatt hour to recharge that car. Presumably all the alternative energy sources are replacing the need for coal and oil fired plants, so any new energy demands, like EV and plug-in hybrids, are extending the demand on coal-fired plants.

    I mean, if we want to reduce the impact in our lives of coal-fired power plants, we have to arrive at a quantification of the amount of carbon our use of electricity entails.

  • [...] well now that we’ve aired out our feelings about green…. (sheepishly looks away)… let’s um, talk about our gardens!  And how green and [...]

  • Green … OK, to me green represents life and life giving. Organic gardening is “green” because you are growing food for your family or others and doing something that adds value to life. There are plenty of other examples of “green living”, and much better explanations I’m sure, but to me green = alive :) . Green activities enhance life.
    Sustainable is probably a better term, but green just sounds nicer to me … besides it is my favorite color!


  • Aside from it being my favorite color and the color of money, green to me means living off and giving in return to mother nature. There is just no better way to be “green” than that.

    And yes, sustainable does sound better, while green sounds like just a color. =)

  • carlobosa

    green is not red or blue but both. green is the way forward. green is the colour of life. green is only one colour but nature is all. you can be a colour, or even think you are sustainable, but mankind needs to REINTEGRATE with nature. detach yourself from civilisation and RECONSIDER everything!

  • Good question. It’s like a lot of labels: fairly ambiguous, especially labels in the “green” world. Are you environmentalists? Sustainability activists? People who live simply? None of those things really resonate with me, personally. How do you find an all-inclusive label that really describes what you’re about?

    I guess that’s the thing about diversity — you can’t really explain it in one word.

  • Thank you for your awesome, comprehensive comments you all. Lots to think about!!

  • When I was growing up, we used cloth bags to go to the market, canvas bags to carry books to school, cloth instead of kitchen tissues in the kitchen, reused tins to grow herbs and plants, used vines of certain plants as scrubbers, mud for a facial, leaves of hibiscus plants for an hair shampoo, earthen wares to cook, recycle old bedsheets into pillow covers, use an earthern pot to cool water, drink sugar cane juice to quench our thirst come summer instead of carbonated drinks, handwash clothes instead of a washing maching, make washing soap,use pestle and mortar to grind, eat whole grains and use 100% whole grain flour for making flat bread, reuse milk plastic bags to store leftovers , have seasonal vegetables and fruits and used fans instead of an air conditioner. Walking and public transportation was a way of life. We had limit order on our consumption of biscuits, cakes and icecream, though they were homemade .We slept on mats /cotton mattress and had a shelf of clothes. The furniture was made of solid wood and they are still strong after 3 decades even when all of us have tested our strength on them. This and so much more. We lived large in a small space. Today, I am trying hard to be an honest practitioner of what kept me sustainable and healthy.

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