Blog: The Problem With the “G Word” (Green)

Thu, Aug 13, 2009


Last week, I linked to a TriplePundit post about the death of the words “green” and “sustainability,” asking what words we should replace them with, if we should replace them at all. The piece’s author, William Brent, suggests “red and black” and “sustaINABILITY” as phrases that are more honest and indicative of the current state of the environmentalist movement. I find both of those expressions demoralizing and unhelpful. Sure, “green” carries as little meaning as “organic” these days, but do we really need to introduce the public to a new set of colors to identify such a divergent array of efforts?

We’re inundated with new language every day. Buzzwords, neologisms, old words re-purposed or made into new parts of speech, and to be frank, I’m sick of it. Every word or phrase is picked for its memetic potential, then quickly sucked dry and abandoned. We think that we use language to simplify ideas when in fact we’re making them overcomplicated and exclusive. Instead of explaining to others what we do, we merely say, “I’m going green,” as if that should take care of all the details. It’s catchy, but so what? Brent’s suggestions do little to fix a basic problem with modern environmentalist lingo: it’s meaningless.

As an alternative, I propose that we stop using [word] and start using words. When someone asks about your business, provide that person with all the information he or she needs to truly understand your efforts. It’s always better to bore people than to confuse them. Plus, it will inspire you to increase your business’ transparency. Don’t be satisfied with your “green” initiatives: instead, make them clear.

Matt Lurie can be reached here.

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