Brown is the new green

Advertisers love the word “green.” British journalist Nick Rosen doesn’t – not anymore. On off-grid.net, the website he edits, he argues environmentalists should wear a different color now.

Marco Visscher | March 2009 issue
What’s wrong with green?
“Green was a word that stood for an era of less materialism and zero growth. It took us a long time to establish the word, but now it has been hijacked by the people we were trying to distinguish ourselves from. Manufacturers, advertisers, marketeers: They pretend we can live on with our lives the way we did, as long as we check the label. They have made ‘green’ into a fashion item. Now everything is green.”
But that should be great news!
“Not really. Green is being applied to inappropriate products and services. Less packaging material for chocolate bars is called ‘green.’ There’s a new ‘green’ perfume, made of natural oils—well, aren’t most perfumes made of natural oils? The new Barbie doll is ‘green’ because its fabric comes from used Barbie dolls.”
Okay, these examples aren’t perfect, but do they do any harm?
“Well, thanks to these examples, we’ve become diverted from the real polluters. We’ve started to think it’s because of us, consumers, that we have environmental problems. In the meantime, 98 percent of all waste is generated outside the home, through manufacturing, transportation, distribution.”
So what do we do?
“To undo the damage, we have to adopt a new color: brown. Brown is the new green.”
Why brown?
“Because advertisers will never want to hijack such a color. Brown is a reminder of what we talk about when we talk about the Earth. It’s a reconnection with our own dirt. Brown is pure environmentalism.”
What’s going to change if environmentalists swap the word “brown” for “green”?
“It means that some organizations have to rename themselves: the Brown Party, Brownpeace. If we adopt ‘brown,’ people who call themselves ‘green’ become subject to greater scrutiny. After all, why don’t they call themselves ‘brown?’ There must be something to hide here.”

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