Hat tip to our modern huswyfe, Jody, whose GREEN post inspired this minor rant!
At some point in the recent past, the nation's favourite hobby changed from gardening to shopping. Now I could go on, in my own indefatigable way, that this perhaps shows a crisis in British society: that we abandoned the healthful, convivial, creative hobby of gardening for regular consumer blowouts, which leave us feeling anxious, guilty and let down after the few brief moments of pleasure, but I won't. What I will say it that it is no surprise to me that "green" lifestyles (oh, how I hate that word) are being sold to us: that most government initiatives on environmental issues revolve around the third of the three "Rs", I imagine Gordon Brown doesn't approve of reducing what we buy and re-using what we have, for economic reasons; that McDonald's Happy Meal advertisements now look like an episode of River Cottage; that popular newspaper and magazine coverage of green issues is often celebrity led...Gwyneth Paltrow's use of organic cosmetics, Hally Berry has a hybrid car! It's becoming increasingly obvious that the green movement is becoming, for want of a better word, commercialised. It's just another lifestyle to buy into, endorsed by your favourite celebrity, with it's own special labels and brands to identify your allegiance with a certain group.
However, my main concern about the commercialisation of the environmental movement is that it makes green a very exclusive colour; the average person feels that they have to be rather wealthy to be properly green. From organic shampoo, to a raised veg bed made from ethically source withy branches, it's all very nice, but it's all very new Tory. And, we look at the lifestyle programmes, and the Sunday supplements, and we dream, and we think if only, and we conclude that green is as achievable for us as buying the country cottage that goes with the lifestyle. When green is well marketed, green becomes aspirational, and is just another consumer product which becomes fodder for a consumer induced sense of ill-being, just another thing we want but can't afford, let's just settle for a Happy Meal with carrot sticks instead of chips.
It's always been my contention that the most environmentally positive people in the UK right now are pensioners. Look at how responsibly our grandparents live. They can fix things, they don't throw stuff out until it's really broken, they can cook (after a fashion!), they've been wearing the same clothes since Moses was a boy, they prefer ballroom dancing and Saturday morning at the football to a recreational trawl around the mall, they garden, take care of their cars, they save their pennies, it's they who use public transport, many of them are involved in community project work, their friendships and family matter more to them than their possessions. Incidentally, the over 65s are the poorest demographic in the UK. When it comes to carbon footprints having loads of lovely lolly is a detriment, David Cameron's carbon footprint must be massive, despite all of his greenwash, my 86 year old father-in-law is a green angel compared to Gwyneth and Hally.
What we must begin to learn is that when it comes to putting environmental abstraction into domestic practice, it is what we do and not what we buy that counts. Not simply because we mere mortals cannot afford the Sunday supplement lifestyle but, moreover, that green is not a lifestyle. Having a green way of life is easy, it is also a joy, it is not something which you can optionally buy into, but something you simply do on a day to day basis. So, green is not a lifestyle, but it is, or soon will be, life being lived. We have to look at our planet (and look at our purses) and look at our family and look at our neighbours, and say how does what I do impact your well-being? Am I better off line-drying my washing, home baking my bread, walking to school/work, eating locally, feeding the kids proper grub, buying Fair Trade, fixing the car so it runs properly, saving up for good experiences rather than bad shopping sprees, going to glorious Cornwall rather than some dreadful Costa? Being green is being responsible, frugal, self-controlled and respectful. Being green is having fun with what you have with the people you love most. Being green and being wealthy are in no way synonymous. Being green is being old fashioned.