What Does “Green” Mean Anyway?

By Hillary Mizia of Monkey Hugz and PriZm Sustainability


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It seems these days that green is the new black. Everyone is doing it, from the biggest of the big like Wal-Mart to your next door neighbor. Companies tout their “greenness” and consumers flock to buy “green” products. It looks good, feels good, and hell, even smells good. But what is “it?” A color? An action? A feeling? And how do we know who’s really doing “it” anyway?

So what exactly does “green” mean these days? I believe it can be summed up in one sentence: a lifestyle whereby thoughtful choices guide our everyday decisions. And I tell you what, this is easier than it may seem. Speaking from personal experience, and from countless tales I’ve heard from others, there really is no going back once you get “it.” At least not without understanding the outcome of your decision, and that’s a real humdinger.


p style=”margin-bottom: 0in; text-align: center;”>While a kinship and connection to the non-human world has been recognized for thousands of years, the modern environmental movement as we have come to know it was born out of the 60’s. Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring opened the eyes of many to the effects of DDT and other chemicals used on crops. The first Earth Day was established in 1970, along with the “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.” logo and phrase that has become a mantra for so many. Traditionally a movement based on a combination of regulation (if you pollute, I’ll fine you) and activism (if you try to cut that tree down, I’ll chain myself to it or live in it), environmentalism has generally been thought of as an extremist movement filled with tree huggers and leftist do-gooders. Oddly enough, the most environmentally savvy president was Richard Nixon, but that’s a conversation for another time.going_green

Over the past 10 years or so there has been, I believe, a shift in the environmental movement. What was once left up to dumpster divers and generally smelly, wide-eyed people has now become all but mainstream. Materials re-use, minimizing products that pollute indoor and outdoor air alike, and eating crops grown organically are not unheard of. Even the failed solar power movement of the 1970’s is, in the 2000’s, a fully backed and viable way to go.

This shift is away from regulation and finger pointing and towards raising awareness and taking preventative action. It means that we as families and individuals have more options available to us. We are now in a time where it’s fairly common knowledge that voting with your dollar really does make a difference. And what are we voting for? Justice three ways: environmentally, socially and economically.

And even though shopping is a national past time, sustainability goes far beyond our wallets. It’s a way of living that affects everything we do. There are many metaphors for sustainability (a three legged stool, a cross section, a triple bottom line), and my personal favorite- the one I dedicated my consulting business to- is a lens. Sustainability, being “green,” is a lens that we look through. Once you start seeing green, it colors every action you take whether you realize it or not. This is what makes the journey so exciting. This is why sustainability is not about regulation and feeling badly about our behavior. It’s truly about finding exciting new ways to increase your positive impact on the planet and your community that work for you and your family.

There are many ways to put this into action, and many resources from which you can draw. Perhaps the easiest way to do this is to start by asking yourself what you don’t need to buy. What can you or someone you know make that meets your needs? What food can you grow in your garden or create in your kitchen? What energy can you generate on-site, or how can you alter your living so that less energy is needed? Then shift your focus to your community. What can’t be made at home may very well be available locally in both goods and services. Explore your local yellow pages and downtown or place most similar to it. I’m often amazed at the local shops that pop up in strip malls historically populated with chain stores. Ask the store owners about getting certain products if you can’t find them already on the shelves. And then turn to places outside your community: family and friends that may have a local connection where they live, and the Internet. Do also look for local directories such as the ReDirect Guide (link listed below). More of these are popping up and are really only known about in your community.

Then let this ride take you and your family where it may. Start a local currency, open a food co-op, build your own house or join a co-housing community, become a CSA member . . . the list goes on and on. And then when let us know what you’re doing!



Skin Deep Cosmetics Database

Fostering Sustainable Behavior by Doug Mckenzie-Mohr

147 Practical Tips for Teaching Sustainability by yours truly and a handful of other authors, available on Amazon.com

Mothering magazine and website

Permaculture Activist magazine

The National Greenpages

The ReDirect Guide


Hillary Mizia is co-owner (with her husband) of Monkey Hugz, a natural parenting and family store focused on sustainable living.  Not only is everything at Monkey Hugz durable, useful and reusable, it has also passed through the Monkey Hugz Sustainability Criteria.  You can read more about this process, the answers to some of the common “why” questions of sustainable living, and shop, at www.MonkeyHugz.com.  You can learn more about Hillary at www.PriZmSustainability.com, where she is principal and founder.

Thank you so much to Hillary for this awesome post! Don’t forget to check out more of our Going Green Party.

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