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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » What's with the word "Green" these days?

   
Author Topic: What's with the word "Green" these days?
Puppy
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For decades, TV stations, companies, and other organizations have been endorsing environmental issues and encouraging people to do things like recycle and conserve energy. This is pretty cool.

However, I've noticed that in the past year or so, every organization that does this seems to somehow involve the word "green" in their campaign. This wasn't extremely common before, as far as I remember, and now suddenly, it seems near-universal to me.

My question is, is this just an accidental fad? Or is someone coordinating this united message?

Or are my perceptions just off?

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The Pixiest
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It's a buzzword. People like being earth friendly and they'll buy something that's green over something that's not, all else being equal. Oft times, people with too much money will buy something that's green even if it costs more and does less.

It's like Organic. People think it helps the earth (it doesn't, it's worse than factory farming) or that it's more healthy (it's not. Organic fertilizer is poodoo.) but people spend extra money on it because they're stupid.

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rivka
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And much like "organic", there are no standards for use of the word. So some rather dubious things are being called "green".
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Jhai
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Language Log had a post just the other day about this new use of green.
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Achilles
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Signs of the times, I suppose.

What a great subject for today, Puppy!

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scifibum
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Greening our lives will embiggen the resources enhappyed by all our descendants.
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Noemon
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quote:
Originally posted by rivka:
And much like "organic", there are no standards for use of the word. So some rather dubious things are being called "green".

And yet despite this, it's not easy bein' green
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BlackBlade
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Puppy: When it comes to understanding the use of that word these days you're clearly green. [Razz]
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breyerchic04
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There are more standards on using organic than using green. Our farmers market was shut down for a few weeks because people kept using the term organic when they weren't certified. They've since come up with Hoosierganic.
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Amka
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Yeah, there are actual FDA standards to go by if a food is labeled organic. Some things that have this are worth buying, like leafy greens and such. But other uses of it are practically meaningless, like meat products.

Getting organic meat products or ones without antibiotics etc doesn't mean you're getting meat that was raised any more humanely or is any healthier for you.

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Fyfe
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I kind of like it. Advertisers always use such a pleasing shade of green.
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Juxtapose
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quote:
Yeah, there are actual FDA standards to go by if a food is labeled organic.
The enforcement isn't especially robust, though.
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theamazeeaz
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quote:
Originally posted by The Pixiest:
It's a buzzword. People like being earth friendly and they'll buy something that's green over something that's not, all else being equal. Oft times, people with too much money will buy something that's green even if it costs more and does less.

It's like Organic. People think it helps the earth (it doesn't, it's worse than factory farming) or that it's more healthy (it's not. Organic fertilizer is poodoo.) but people spend extra money on it because they're stupid.

I had to explain to my roommate who decided to throw out everything in her shelf on the fridge to replace with organic food that it wasn't going to help her lose weight. [Wall Bash]
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Raymond Arnold
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I currently know little about Organic farming, but I don't see why it would be bad for the earth, nor what's wrong with using manure for fertilizer.
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dkw
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quote:
Originally posted by Puppy:

This wasn't extremely common before, as far as I remember, and now suddenly, it seems near-universal to me.

My question is, is this just an accidental fad? Or is someone coordinating this united message?


Or are my perceptions just off?

Your perceptions are off. "Green" used that way has been common for decades.
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rivka
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True. However, its use has definitely skyrocketed in the past couple years. Especially being used as a verb (as per the LL post cited above).

That's right, the use of "green" has skyrocketed in California.

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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
I currently know little about Organic farming, but I don't see why it would be bad for the earth, nor what's wrong with using manure for fertilizer.
Organic farming methods often require more fossil fuels to raise and harvest (that's despite not using any fossil fuels for synthetic fertilizer) and can cause increased topsoil erosion in comparison with non-organic methods.

In reality, the term "organic" means nothing besides the fact that it was grown/raised according to the FDA rules for organic produce.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Organic farming methods often require more fossil fuels to raise and harvest (that's despite not using any fossil fuels for synthetic fertilizer) and can cause increased topsoil erosion in comparison with non-organic method.
I take issue with this. First you need to distinguish between small scale organic farming and industrial scale organic farming. Small scale local organic produce typically requires far less fossil fuel than either non-organic industrial agriculture or organic industrial agriculture. Second, the answer you get when comparing industrial organic agriculture in industrial non-organic agriculture depends very strongly on the particular crop being grown. For example, organically grown apples and tomatoes typically use far less fossil fuel where as organically grown lettuce may require more. Detailed studies of grain production found that organic agriculture used 30% less fossil fuel energy than conventional agriculture.

I've looked at a wide range I've studies. The numbers I've seen indicate that the averages for organic and non-organic agriculture are very nearly equal, with organic being slightly lower than conventional agricutlure. It is reasonable to assert that there is on the average no significant difference in fossil fuel use in industrial scale organic and non-organic agriculture, but it is over stating the case to claim organic crops use more fossil fuels.

Finally, there are advantages to organic farming above and beyond just fossil fuel use. Including toxicity to human field workers, potential adverse health effects of chemical residues in the food, loss of trace nutrients in the food, the environmental impact of herbicides and pesticides, and soil erosion as a starting list.

As a side note, it is often claimed that organic agriculture (particularly the low energy use small scale organic farms) can't possibly be implemented on large scale. Cuba has disproved that claim.

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CaySedai
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"Green: It's not just a fad. It's here to stay."

Background - at my work, there's a new concentration on "being green." It's going to ridiculous heights. They took away our wastebaskets (which used to be emptied by cleaning crew, which were let go) and gave us each a small wastebasket for trash and a larger one for paper, Everybody has to go empty these into larger wastebaskets that are separated by paper, trash and cans/bottles. (Iowa has deposit laws, so these are redeemed for cash.)

They talk about "being green" and by they, I mean my boss's boss. They replaced some of the light switches with timed light switches - meaning that instead of turning off the bathroom light when you are done, you turn it long enough that it won't shut off when you are still in there and just leave it on when you leave. The lunchroom light is on a timer but you can't adjust it - it has a motion detector and is supposed to go on when you come in, but sometimes goes off when I'm still eating and I have to get up and get in its line of sight.

But they haven't asked us to shut off our computers when we leave for the day - imagine how much "greener" that would be, especially for some of us who have a PC and a Mac at our desks. (And two computers, not very "green" but that's how it's been done at my work for years, no immediate plans to change. They were going to get us new Macs this spring and take our new PCs away that we just got last fall to give to another department, but that's been pushed back. The PCs we had were purchased in 1999, and the Macs have been there since 2001 or earlier.)

So, in my department, we have a list of things that are buzzwords from a higher level and we repeat them in mocking fashion. "It's not a fad" and "it's here to stay" are just the latest in a long list of such sayings (along with "dropping the ball" and "you need to step up").

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Tresopax
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I suspect it's all a very elaborate marketing campaign for an upcoming Hulk movie....
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by The Pixiest:

It's like Organic. People think it helps the earth (it doesn't, it's worse than factory farming) or that it's more healthy (it's not. Organic fertilizer is poodoo.) but people spend extra money on it because they're stupid.

Organic everything is my number one piece of proof that there is no substantive difference between idiot Conservatives and idiot Liberals. Idiots buy stupid crap, be it an assault weapon or a certain kind of vegetable, and they do so for reasons somewhat beyond my understanding. Organic is two things to me- first it's a brilliant scam of a marketing device, and second, it's one of those artifacts of ideology over evidence, or even rational examination of the facts.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
But they haven't asked us to shut off our computers when we leave for the day - imagine how much "greener" that would be, especially for some of us who have a PC and a Mac at our desks.
Speaking as an IT guy: it may not be much greener. If your machines have a decent power-save mode and have been configured to use it, they might be drawing a lot less power when unused than you think. More importantly, a fair number of updates and fixes get pushed out to people's machines in the off-hours. If our users were to start turning off their computers at night, they'd often have to sit on their hands and do nothing for the first half an hour of their work day while patches and things install themselves.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Juxtapose:
quote:
Yeah, there are actual FDA standards to go by if a food is labeled organic.
The enforcement isn't especially robust, though.
There are also FDA standards to go by if one wants to label one's food "natural" rather than "artificial." But the fact remains that most people would be quite shocked at the reality behind those standards. For anyone not in the know about this, artificial and natural ingredients often vary only based on the method of production, rather than the final product.

A famous example given by Eric Schlosser in Fast Food Nation is almond flavor: artificial almond flavor and natural almond flavor are produced in different ways, artificial almond flavor comes from a process of mixing chemicals in a plant, with no use of actual almonds. Natural almond flavor is derived from real almonds, also in a plant. The resulting chemical food additives are identical, except that natural almond flavor contains minute traces of cyanide, whereas artificial almond flavor does not contain any cyanide.

Artificial almond flavor is cheaper (because of its "artifical" status, and because it is easier to make), and "natural" almond flavor is more expensive, despite the fact that it contains small amounts of poison.

The story is similar with a bazillion other flavor additives: "flavored by fruit juice," can in fact simply mean that the concentrated sugar in any given beverage was derived from fruit, with all the nutrients and actual unique flavor carefully removed. That's a needlessly costly and wasteful process, simply so that parents and concerned shoppers can read "all natural" in the corner of a food package that is not unlike any other, but costs twice as much. Schlosser never gave figures on how much in real resources is wasted because of these distinctions (probably it would be very hard to calculate), but I'd be surprised if it wasn't a whole lot.

Imagine having two options for materials when building a house- one is called gumbycite, the other is called ironite. Suppose gumbycite is cheaper, stronger, more environmentally sound, and easier to produce than ironite. This whole flavor thing can be like choosing ironite to build thousands of houses, despite the cost, despite the inferiority of the product, just because its name sounds better, and will therefore fetch a higher price. That's kind of what it feels like to me.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
But they haven't asked us to shut off our computers when we leave for the day - imagine how much "greener" that would be, especially for some of us who have a PC and a Mac at our desks.
Speaking as an IT guy: it may not be much greener. If your machines have a decent power-save mode and have been configured to use it, they might be drawing a lot less power when unused than you think. More importantly, a fair number of updates and fixes get pushed out to people's machines in the off-hours. If our users were to start turning off their computers at night, they'd often have to sit on their hands and do nothing for the first half an hour of their work day while patches and things install themselves.
I'm constantly hearing things like this. Do you know any actual figures on power consumption between the two scenarios? I'm wondering if it is more efficient to run a computer on standby, or to restart it at the beginning of a day (or say, an hour before the day starts). You always hear that it takes more energy to start them than to just leave them in standby, and I'm wondering how true that is. I've heard this for a lot of products that have a certain amount of front-loaded work involved with restarting- refrigerators, or neon lights for example.


CaySadai: Do you work at Initech?

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TomDavidson
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It saves power to leave a computer off. It does not, however, save so much power that it's worth the loss of overnight updates.

A corporation that really wanted to take it seriously would either give everyone low-power virtual machines or would schedule machines to Wake on LAN for updates, then shut back down.

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The Pixiest
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Organic farming produces less yield per acre. Thus, it requires more acres to feed everyone. That is why it is less green.

There is nothing wrong with using manure as fertilizer except that manure is a vector for diseases. Manure also causes the same run off problems that artificial fertilizers do, so you're not saving there either.

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The White Whale
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I thought that Marion Nestle did a great job explaining what organic, natural, etc. means and how it's applied, where the classifications came from, an so on.

What to Eat

A lot of the screwy classifications come from the food or food-like product ( [Wink] ) producers fighting tooth and nail against classifications (such as organic) that they would not be able to apply to their own product.

She makes the point (it's been awhile since I read it) that organic and natural are good if you really care about how your food is produced. The end product is more or less the same (except for pesticide / fertilizer residues on produce, or other strange things in meat), but if you really don't want synthetic fertilizers, say because they're often produced from fossil fuels, the certified organic is the way to go.

She also made the point somewhere in there that if you eat the outside of the specific produce, like apple skins, then you should be more worried about what fertilizers and pesticides were applied and may want to go organic. If, on the other hand, you're eating an orange, where you remove the skin and discard it, it doesn't matter as much and conventional is a safe option.

Anyways, it's a good book! I recommend it!

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The White Whale
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The Pixiest. You're looking only at the end of the whole production cycle. Sure, organic has smaller yields and some runoff, but there is not the whole chain of industrial production that comes with synthetic fertilizers. You may get higher yields from industrial agriculture, but there are a lot of hidden costs there. You're picking only the part of the process that will make your point (i.e. that organic is less green). It's frustrating.

And sure, fertilizer is a vector for disease, only if you are irresponsible with how you use it. There are outbreaks all the time of diseases from industrial agriculture that are not from manure use.

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Amka
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Another good book is The Omnivore's Dilemma.

I agree with pretty much everything that has been said about the labels of organic and natural. It's good to go a step beyond the labels.

One of my favorite ingredient scams is "dehydrated cane juice". That said, sugar is better for you than corn syrup.

One other thing that is often true of organic, though, is that the workers are treated better because the ideal of being responsible with the earth spreads to being responsible employers.

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scifibum
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quote:
One of my favorite ingredient scams is "dehydrated cane juice". That said, sugar is better for you than corn syrup
Clever verbal disguises for "sugar"...Heh. It's something I've been seeing a lot of. I don't know whether they're trying to dodge speed-read scans for "sugar" and "corn syrup" or if they think it lends them an air of sophistication. Maybe both.
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