There is much talk lately to suggest that momentum for the Green movement is building. Unfortunately, the only momentum I see building is for talk about momentum building. If you are selling a product which has as its only advantage over alternatives its “greenness,” you are selling a niche product. There are consumers who will pay more or sacrifice some utility for a green product, but they are not a large group. Take a look at this article on MarketWatch lamenting the fact that newspapers are buying Chinese paper that comes from wood in forests that are allegedly being cut without regard to sustainability. Why? Because it’s cheaper, obviously. The article also wonders, “Why don’t newspaper owners invest more in recycling newsprint rather than importing more from other countries around the world that will only further deplete one of our greatest natural resources — trees?” Again, we can guess the answer – with the availability of cheap Chinese paper, a recycled pulp mill can’t be justified.
Green, at this stage, is mostly a heavily used marketing ploy. A green product or company can get some good press, maybe hob-nob with some green celebs, and is then left to wonder why its market share seems to have a ceiling. If we’re really serious about creating green products for the mass market, let’s stop pontificating about how everyone should buy green, and start creating products that are green and superior to alternative products. Think about successful recycled paper greeting card companies. Yeah, you feel good buying them because they’re made out of recycled paper, but you want them because of their design. The sooner we stop creating products that are green, and start creating products that are superior and green, the sooner we’ll actually be helping the environment.