Consumerism Stories

It’s (too) easy being green

Written by Sven Eberlein

Not too long ago calling yourself “green” landed you in the public perception kitchen somewhere between twirling granola hippie and hopeless romantic. In 2002 I wrote an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle entitled A Vote that counts – A Green German speaks his mind about how difficult it was for me to see the Green Party in this country and the ideas it stood for so marginalized. Seven years later the Green Party may still not have gotten much traction (due to the two-party system in the U.S.), but the good news is that the dialog about environmental awareness has progressed enough to adopt “green” into a mainstream narrative.

I’m certainly not attached to party labels and I’m thrilled to see important issues like global warming, GMOs or peak oil being pushed to the forefront by the will of the people, and as an extension of it, this new administration. However, as the word “green” is rolling off people’s tongues ever more liberally (pun intended) I think it’s important for those of us who went through the dark ages of greenness to remind the “Born-again Greens” that this is really about much more than clicking on petitions or slapping a photo of a forest on your product, that this simple little word can’t be an excuse for continuing our wasteful lifestyles under a new feelgood label.

As President Obama so aptly cautions, we have to make tough choices and sacrifices in order to find a better equilibrium with nature, and continuing to be a mindless consumer society is not an option, green or no green. Ultimately, the best choice is to consume LESS, not consume green.

Here’s Deb and I’s interpretation of that sentiment as seen in the Go Green installation at the Main Street Gallery in Groton, NY…

A poem and photo

Poem by Sven Eberlein / photo by Debra Baida


Green is a word
on our minds to save the world.
It’s hope, it’s attraction, and it’s spring,
show me the honey and I’ll be your sweet fling.

Summer comes and turns it red,
a jewel in our flower bed.
Orange, white, and midnight blue—
it’s mustard, mint, and indigo too.

Soon—behold—the harvests mellow,
our ripened fruit now turns to yellow—
what once was called a fig or rose
now goes away to decompose.

Into the earth and deep down under,
returning to its dark moist yonder;
without a word or clapping sound
beloved Green has turned to brown.

Just when it seemed that Green was Brown
the compost pile gets turned around.
Little critters come to play,
the color now is Shades of Grey.

And so it goes, a million years—
the planet turns, it seldom veers.
The human mind though likes to cling
to the notion of that fling.

So get inspired, call it Green,
but remember it’s not always clean.
That Green Carpet Star reception
may be a first class deception.

What the mothership is tellin’
is to slow the buyin’ and the sellin’—
to follow nature is to find
that being green is colorblind.

About the author

Sven Eberlein

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  • Great post Sven.

    I saw this article in the Guardian. It laments blatant corporate stupidity, and it also argues we should prevent ourselves from complacency and believing whatever we are doing is enough (especially in the face of such stupidity):

    “And we’re all in denial. Not only are we convinced that we’re already ‘doing our bit’, with relatively inconsequential things like refusing offers of plastic bags, we’re actively hostile towards doing more as a result. Our willingness to act is inversely proportional to the impacts of our actions, like donating to a seal protection charity while swanning around in a freshly clubbed, still bleeding pelt.”

    Collectively we need to keep ramping up our imaginations and solutions.

    Consuming less would be an incredible cultural sea change.


  • Pete, I wholeheartedly agree that consuming less is going to be key in our endeavors to be “green.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t fit with our current economic model, but I think that’s going to change whether we want to or not. I wrote I piece in the run-up to last year’s election entitled “Consume Less, We Can!” accompanied by some of Ed Kashi’s great photography from the Niger Delta that delves into this.,-We-Can!