What exactly is “Green Consumerism?”

The Rubber Manufacturers Association says it takes about seven gallons of gas to make a single tire, but new technology is being developed to make “green” tires using renewable raw materials. The Business Ethics Blog, always thought-provoking, asks us what we think:.

So, let's take this new technology and ask a hypothetical question. If "green" tires were to hit the market, and if they a) really were substantially more environmentally friendly but b) were only "nearly" as safe (say, 98% as safe) as old-fashioned rubber tires, would you buy them? Should you?

I couldn’t help thinking that the real ethical question lies elsewhere. Isn’t the whole concept of “green consumerism” bogus?

By definition, going green is to consume less, not more. Does buying green tires make us more eco-friendly? Isn’t getting rid of the life with tires the real solution? (I know that practicing a car-less life in Taiwan, where I live, is far more easier than doing it in, say, North America. Here in Taipei, owning a car is illogical, even suicidal at times.)

Probably the real problem is the word usage, specifically the combination of two contradictory terms for the sake of making up marketing jargon.

  • Q: How can we make our ecology-minded customers purchase our products?
  • A: Make them believe that they consume less by buying more.

Certainly, nobody’s motivated to buy by listening to more honest phrases such as “tires made from tired materials.”

We use terms similar to green consumerism all the time; some examples are listed below. Their main purpose is to convince ourselves, the speakers, rather than the listeners.

  • Risk hedge
  • Virtual reality
  • Safe sex

Today’s lesson: Be ethical about our language before focusing on companies’ behaviors.

P.S. My answer to the question in the quote would be “Yes, as long as I do not have small kids riding along with me.” In other words, no. I know, it does not make logical sense at all. What is the actual effect that tires 2% less safe than standard ones have on safety? Talking while driving is far more dangerous—which is what we always do when driving with kids.