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Editorial

Mr. Green in the drug store with the toothbrush

Kermit was right. It’s not easy bein’ green. Even with the best intentions, we’re bound to slip up.

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By Nick Ubels (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: October 3, 2012

Green cars, green shampoo, green energy?

It’s Friday afternoon. I’m working on a hard copy-edit of one of my essays. Having entered my changes into Microsoft Word, I crumple up the page and toss it towards the corner bin. Just before I throw my arms in the air to celebrate scoring my second three-pointer that day, I’m struck with a sudden realization: I could have recycled that.

It’s Monday morning. I’m on my way back to the office with an empty paper coffee cup in my hand when I spot one of UFV’s multi-purpose waste disposal stations. Where to toss my cup? It’s part paper, part plastic, and stained with what’s left of my double-double. Paralysed by the thought of ruining an entire bag of recyclable material, I toss it in the trash. Could I have recycled that?

Kermit was right. It’s not easy bein’ green.

Even with the best intentions, we’re bound to slip up.

If you’ve been to the grocery store in the past decade, you know there’s no escaping the rows and rows of products claiming to help you contribute to saving the planet. That little sticker is a badge that tells everyone around you that you’re putting sustainability first.

When you arrive at the checkout counter, rather than being asked if you’d prefer paper or plastic, you show the cashier your reusable cloth bag. Now everybody on the block will know you’re chipping in.

The word “green” has been associated with nature and healthy ecosystems for centuries. But it’s also become a go-to marketing word for companies looking to cash in on folks feeling guilty about their consumption habits. And most people will stop there, feeling like they’ve done their part, that they won’t be judged.

After all, we are what we buy. At least that’s what advertisers are hoping we’ll believe.

So how much should we trust these labels?

In Canada, environmental labelling is regulated by the Canadian Standards Association, whose 2008 guidebook does not include any standardization, allowing for a wide range of products to fall into this category. Advertisers are not allowed to deliberately mislead consumers, but it is still up to each company to decide what constitutes an eco-friendly product.

Before spending a little extra cash to buy something solely for its arbitrary little sticker, think twice about what it really means. We need to make informed lifestyle choices rather than falling prey to advertisers’ minor concessions made to squeeze an extra dollar out of our pockets.

Buying a particular kind of toothpaste won’t make a difference.

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