Read the passages below and write an essay that addresses the following:
“When wannabe environmentalists try to change purchasing habits without also altering their consumer mind-set, something gets lost in translation.”
Buying green is a sign that people recognize the need to protect the environment, claims Monica Hesse in the following viewpoint. However, she argues, consuming is not the solution. Consumption will not solve the nation’s environmental challenges, Hesse explains. To be truly green means to buy less, not green, she maintains. Replacing products thought to be environmentally unsound increases consumption, which in turn increases environmental problems, she reasons.
In satiric fashion, she admonishes the green consumer:
“Congregation of the Church of the Holy Organic, let us buy.”
“Let us buy Anna Sova Luxury Organics Turkish towels, 900 grams per square meter, $58 apiece. Let us buy the eco-friendly 600-thread-count bed sheets, milled in Switzerland with U.S. cotton, $570 for queen-size.”
“Let us purge our closets of those sinful synthetics, purify ourselves in the flame of the soy candle at the altar of the immaculate Earth Weave rug, and let us buy, buy, buy until we are whipped into a beatific froth of free-range fulfillment.”
“And let us never consider the other organic option—not buying—because the new green consumer wants to consume, to be more celadon than emerald, in the right color family but muted, without all the hand-me-down baby clothes and out-of-date carpet.”
“There’s a certain thrill, that you get to go out and replace everything,” says Leslie Garrett, author of “The Virtuous Consumer,” a green shopping guide. “New bamboo T-shirts, new hemp curtains.”
Garrett describes the conflicting feelings she and her husband experienced when trying to decide whether to toss an old living room sofa: “Our dog had chewed on it—there were only so many positions we could put it in” without the teeth marks showing. But it still fulfilled its basic role as a sofa: “We could still sit on it without falling through.”
They could still make do. They could still, in this recession-wary economy, where everyone tries to cut back, subscribe to the crazy notion that conservation was about … conserving. Says Garrett, “The greenest products are the ones you don’t buy.”
There are exceptions. “Certain environmental issues trump other issues,” Garrett says. “Preserving fossil fuels is more critical than landfill issues.” If your furnace or fridge is functioning but inefficient, you can replace it guilt-free.
Ultimately, Garrett and her husband did buy a new sofa (from Ikea—Garrett appreciated the company’s ban on carcinogens). But they made the purchase only after finding another home for their old couch—a college student on Craigslist was happy to take it off their hands.
The sofa example is what Josh Dorfman, host of the Seattle radio show “The Lazy Environmentalist,” considers to be a best-case scenario for the modern consumer. “Buying stuff is intrinsically wrapped up in our identities,” Dorfman says. “You can’t change that behavior. It’s better to say, ‘You’re a crazy shopaholic. You’re not going to stop being a crazy shopaholic. But if you’re going to buy 50 pairs of jeans, buy them from this better place.'”
Then again, his show is called “The Lazy Environmentalist.”