Thursday, September 4, 2008

green living, pop culture style

I was cruising the freelance writing job boards this morning, and I saw that a major blog network was looking for someone to write for their "green living on a budget" blog, and I thought, gosh, that's right up my alley since I am both poor and eco-conscious. So I went to check out the blog and, uh, yeah. Of the seven posts on the front page, five of them are encouraging the reader to buy some gadget or bauble or otherwise spend money.

One of the posts is about buying compostable plastic bags for picking up after your dog, when the actual green and budget-minded option would be to compost your pet waste (it's free, and unlike plastic bags—even compostable ones—in a landfill, it will actually biodegrade). Another post was about buying recycled envelopes made from old magazine pages, and hooray for supporting independent artists on etsy, but the truly frugal cannot afford 24 envelopes for $10, and it is very easy and completely free to make your own envelopes.

I am not linking to or naming the site in question, because one should not badmouth potential clients, even if one has no intention of applying for this particular job. And really, it doesn't matter, because this sort of thing is all over the internet and in magazines, and it's so disheartening to see fluff passed off as green living. But this is what people want. They want to be good without expending very much real effort or changing their lifestyle in any significant way, and they want to buy things (or woo advertising dollars from the people selling things).

There are exceptions, but it seems like the majority of website, blogs, and magazines that claim to be about "green living" are really about fluorescent lightbulbs, carbon offsets, and recycled glass bric-a-brac. And apart from Mother Earth News and the like, it's tough to find information on actions that will make a real difference, like gardening, composting, eating lower on the food chain, eating whole foods, buying second-hand or handmade consumer goods, buying fewer consumer goods to begin with, etc.

It's also tough to be a freelance writer trying to break into the green living niche while refusing to write about fluff. I'll write about fluff for other topics—if the eHow people want to pay me $15 for "How to Make Lime Juice," that's totally fine with me—but I refuse to write about how buying a $300 pair of hemp jeans is going to save the planet.


megan said...

I totally agree. It seems like at least 75% of the posts that I read on "green" blogs are advising that we buy a Prius, offset our vacations, build a new house and furnish it with $3000 "sustainable" coffee tables.

I understand wanting to showcase new designers who are attempting to make more ethical environmental choices, but that should be maybe 10% of the conversation. Because you know what's greener than buying a new organic hemp messenger bag? Using the perfectly good bag that you already have in your closet.

Sonya said...

Absolutely. And what also bothers me is that if "green living" is marketed as some high-end, luxury lifestyle, then people who don't have a lot of money are going to write it off as exactly that--something unattainable that they can't afford to do. Being truly green usually costs something between "cheap" and "free" and should actually save you a lot of money, compared to the mainstream lifestyle based on wasteful disposables and convenience food.