Green Wont Be The Norm, Until We Stop Calling Things Green

by Adam Shake · 13 comments

The word “Green” has become a separatist adjective. A term used to separate something from the norm. Until products become Green by default, Green will always be an outsider.

Editorial by Adam Shake

It’s a random Tuesday evening and I am watching Sweat Equity with Amy Mathews. Amy is showing a young couple how to install flooring and kitchen counter tops in their new home. She’s using terms like “Eco Friendly Counter Tops,” and “Sustainable Wood Flooring.”

I turn to my wife and I say, “Until the day when all counter tops are made Eco Friendly by default and all hardwood floors are made from Sustainable material, and people quite tagging them as Eco and Sustainable, the whole shift is doomed to something other than normal.”

Imagine a world in which you go out to buy a new counter top or install hardwood floors or get a new stove. You don’t have to shop for a green product, you don’t have to look for environmental certification, you don’t have to pay extra to make sure something is Energy Star rated. You know that your purchase is what it should be. You can tell your friends that you purchased this or that without having to launch into the fact that it is Green, Eco, Sustainable, Earth Friendly…. It’s a given.

Unless… the product is not all of those things. Unfriendly product should be the exception and should be designated as such. Imagine using the terms “High Energy Appliances” instead of “Energy Star”. Imagine “Virgin Forest Flooring”  or “Oil Derivative Counter tops.”

Lets shift the paradigm. “Green Architecture” and “Leed Certification” are all the rage right now, but imagine a world where if something was not built to sustainable and energy efficient standards, it had to be designated as such.

Lets back up a few years. Back before “Better living through chemistry,” every thing that was ever grown for human consumption was by default “Organic.” But we have become so used to the fact that our food must be manipulated, sprayed with poison and grown from seeds conjured up in Monsanto Frankenfood laboratories, that Natural has become Un-Natural.

We shouldn’t be calling natural food “Organic.” We should be calling anything that is not grown naturally, Non-Organic!

Are we there yet? Will I be seeing Amy Mathews saying “Were going to be installing new counter tops and flooring,” without tagging them Green, Eco or Organic? Will I ever stop capitalizing the words Green, Eco or Organic? Not yet. Our society hasn’t given up the “unsustainable is normal” philosophy yet. But someday it will. Someday it must.

Keep up the good fight and alter the Eco!

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Related posts:

  1. SweatFree DC – Calling on DC to Stop Sweatshop Purchasing
  2. Trying to be Green in a Red World
  3. Dont Stop the Drilling to Save the Polar Bears

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February 6, 2010 at 7:01 am

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Becky August 27, 2009 at 8:44 am

I hope I get to see the day that things shift in that direction!


2 Ann August 27, 2009 at 8:58 am

I keep thinking there is a larger values debate that’s missing. Andrew Simms at NEF thinks governments should launch a massive propaganda campaign akin to World War II campaigns for austere living. Alastair McIntosh (Hell and High Water) thinks we need a new cultural psychology via spirituality and communal consciousness. However we get there, there is something wrong when we start marketing climate change and green living for a profit when green and sustainable living is supposed to change the nature of consumption.


3 @wildelycreative August 27, 2009 at 9:16 am

It can’t be the norm just yet. We need the differentiation to be able to make considered choices. Until the money men decide humanity and the planet are worth more than dollars, green will never be the norm, unfortunately.

I agree that labelling with “non-green” or “non-eco” could be the way to shift the money minds and lead us to a better, more respectful world.


4 Wendy August 27, 2009 at 9:36 am

Wow, great editorial! I’ve never looked at the Green, Eco or Organic movement as being anything but Normal and Natural but now I understand why people may view it as such. Here’s to a day (soon) when we all are viewing the non-Green, non-Eco or non-Organic as NOT Normal!


5 Leslie- La Mama Naturale' August 27, 2009 at 9:50 am

Great article! Funny, you should write about this. I live in a very small town and write for the local paper.The town is conservative. Slowly we are doing things to make a difference but as I was writing my article last night I had this same thought. I was trying to complete a sentence without using the word green. I wanted to avoid it, in order to persuade my audience a little further. I didn’t want to put emphasis on it. I still ended up using the word…but I had the same thoughts…. When will it become the norm? When will society realize that we’re backwards. Thanks Adam!!


6 Britt August 31, 2009 at 1:18 pm

Smart thinking here. I’m a brand strategist launching a new company with a green differentiator. I’ve been mulling over how to elevate the way we talk about sustainability and eco-friendliness without using the word “green.” I believe it’s important to keep the focus positive so I’m reluctant to use phrases like non-toxic. But I really like the suggestion to shift the focus to the un-naturalness or non-organicness of the alternatives. This is extremely helpful. Thank you!


7 Anthony Kuo September 1, 2009 at 10:48 am

Great editorial! Very insightful indeed, and definitely a change that we need to be making in the future. But what are the steps that need to be taken to achieve this?

I’ve responded to your excellent ideas here:



8 kelli September 2, 2009 at 12:33 am

Amen. Creating a universal benchmark and metrics system for products and services would be interesting as well. Kind of like the nutrition label for food and beverages but beyond the carbon footprint labels currently underway in Japan, Thailand and others. Potentially including resource usage and contributions, community development, etc.


9 Steph @ Greening Families September 5, 2009 at 8:26 am

I’ve seen a shift in the national conversation during this recession. More and more people have admitted that the way they were living was not sustainable in terms of their finances, time, energy, or the earth. It is the last point that gives me hope that change is occurring in the way people view the impact of their choices. I only hope it lasts.


10 Adam Shake September 5, 2009 at 10:29 am

I agree with you Steph. I saw a commercial (for an insurance company) that said something to the effect that in today’s times, it’s not so much about the size of your TV as it is who you have gathered around it with you. It’s not so much the name on the ourside of your purse, as it is about what’s in it.

I hope that people keep these values in mind as the economy improves, but I know that there will always be a need to fight to protect clean air, soil and water.


11 Viva September 6, 2009 at 1:32 am

There are certain shirts and ties that need to be taken out of power before this can happen. The “recession” may have knocked a few middle classers to their senses, but the superrich are now richer than ever, with more power to lobby and falsely label and manipulate natural resources(consumers included). Hold on tight, 21st century hippies. It’s gotta get worse before it can get better.


12 Jennae @ Green & Gorgeous September 22, 2009 at 9:07 pm

This is an excellent point, and one I admit I had never considered before. I don’t know that we are quite there yet, but I certainly hope that those of us who care are working on making this a reality :)


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