Is it just me, or is the word "green" approaching it’s sell by date? I know I’m getting a bit tired of all things green, and I really need this color association to hold on to its hip cachet. It would be a minor disaster for me if green was more like the old beige than the new black.
Why? My business name is Green Economy. I’m talking up the potential of green careers and helping institutions grab the employment creation potential of green collar jobs. I’ve used expressions like “go green” and “green it up” more than I care to admit. “Greening” became a verb for me a long time ago – as in “greening the campus,” “greening our business,” “greening your sex life."
Don’t get too excited about greener sex, actually. My wife and I assumed that that it involved pagan rituals and possibly the intimate use of body paint. Frankly, we were pretty interested. Instead, we got a dire warning about toxic vibrators. We got a little thrill out of shocking the neighbors on household hazardous waste day, but other than that the whole thing was a big disappointment.
Anyway. Where was I? Oh, yes…green.
I’ve talked to architecture students about green buildings, would be scientists about green chemistry, MBAs about green business, public administration classes about green government, and sales people about green marketing. Like many others, I’ve issued warnings against greenwashing. And, to my horror, I once actually referred to “greenification” before a group of land use planners. May the language police forgive me.
I’m not alone, of course. My favorite bookstore in ever trendy Cambridge, Mass. has a rapidly expanding section under the sign “Green Living.” Almost all of the books there have the word "green" in their title and the color splashed on the front cover. Green marketing types have even explored which shade of green best captures the very essence of greeneosity. (Kelly is in. Lime is out.)
It’s becoming a struggle to use green in new ways. I’ve lined up the color as an adjective with just about any other “g” word – gang, group, gossip, gaggle, goals, gals. And, I’ve sought out all kinds of alliterative combinations, creating references to green genes, scenes, deans, beans, fiends, teens and queens.
Clean and green, of course, go together naturally, and that’s why we’re already getting sick of hearing about clean, green energy – even though we desperately need it. To my ear, however, none of these word combos are as musically mellifluous as “green dream.” I’m still kicking myself for not using it first and trademarking it.
If there’s a well-known expression or slang term that can be greened, I’ve shoehorned it into pieces and speeches. “Green with envy.” “Greenhorn.” “Green around the gills.” “Paint the town green.” “It’s not easy being green." Each of them has been given some kind of treatment that sounded at least a little bit creative and witty until… it didn’t.
It appears that just about anything can be improved with the simple addition of the colorful adjective. Cleaning products (greenwashing, indeed!). Women’s clothing. Snack foods. SUVs. Coal-fired power plants. Hazardous waste. Republicans. New Jersey. I’m waiting for the first green tactical nuclear weapon.
Is there an alternative to green? I’ve heard the argument that we should segue to a new color scheme: blue. But where does that get us? We’d have to reframe our references to blue movies, blue laws, playing the blues, getting the blues, blue Hawaii. Instead of Kermit the Frog whining on for another decade about how hard it is being green, we’d have that dog Blue barking about sustainability. I’d have to change my name to Blue Economy, which sounds more like a lobbying group for pornographers than an environmental consulting company.
On the plus side, we would get the expression “blue collar” back.
How about “sustainable”? Could we use that as our default adjective, instead of green? Of course not. We embraced green precisely because sustainable was so hopelessly clunky and academic. There is absolutely no way that a mainstream movement could be built around the word sustainable.
“Sustainable” completely lacks poetry. It’s all Dennis Kucinich, without a hint of Barack Obama. It feels boring and dull as soon as it leaves the world of conference room Power Point presentations. Truth be told, it’s pretty boring and dull there, too. (SustainAble would, however, be a great name for an erectile dysfunction drug. Call me, Pfizer.)So, for now we’re stuck with green. It could be worse. We have the color of forests and corn fields, of spring buds and summer leaves, of frogs and pond scum. And, I’m hoping we stay happily stuck with the color for a long time. I’m ordering company t-shirts soon. All of them in green.