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Change of Consciousness or Change of Advertising Strategy?

Seattle's Best

I saw this ad for organic coffee at a restaurant in Yosemite National Park last weekend. There are some good management initiatives in the park, including free hybrid shuttle buses and a fairly extensive recycling program, but this ad stuck with me, in particular, for negative rather than positive reasons.

Am I the only one who feels skeptical about messages like this? It’s obvious that “green” is a powerful new marketing strategy that every big biz with even a half a clue has picked up on (e.g. here it’s Delaware North, the supplier of Seattle’s Best). One of the messages we’re getting is that it’s okay to continue our rampant consumerism so long as it’s “green” addiction or “green” gluttony. I hate to be so cynical, but sometimes buying green seems like little more than a way to reassure ourselves that we’re doing the right thing without actually having to change our behavior in a substantial way. The whole idea seems facile. Are we really this easily bought?

And I posit my own hypocrisy as an example. I took this picture of the ad, while holding a cup of hot black organic coffee in my other hand. I’ve got a caffeine habit that gets me out of bed (just like my oil habit got me from my home in the city to this park). Since I’m addicted and I’m choosing not to kick the habit, I guess it’s preferable to drink organic, fair trade coffee. But I’m not going to persuade myself that I’m doing the right thing for the planet by drinking this coffee when an actual, substantial change of consciousness and behavior would mean not consuming this substance that my body has no genuine need for.

I bring it up because although I think that moving towards greener economy is a good trend, I also think that we also need to ask ourselves “Do I really need this?” more often. I also think that we need to ask ourselves, “Who here stands to profit?” Otherwise, “eco” risks devolving into little more than a marketing tool that’ll get co-opted by every corporation looking to maximize profits by the most strategic means possible.