The marketing of environmentalism has bred a new culture of consumers who buy environmentally friendly products, organic foods, and Toyota Priuses in order to portray an upper class status, according to observations made by my environmental blog. Green-friendly is the new designer-label, with economist Milton Friedman declaring that “green is the new red, white, and blue.” (I think he means black).
My fear is that separating environmentalism by social class will widen the gap between the haves and have-nots, and trivializes the movement down to the ability to obtain products.
The health industry has already experienced the exploitive nature that is involved in marketing strategies taken on by food giants. According to one interoffice memo, consumers who eat Frito-lays, Doritos, soft drinks, and other well known junk food companies are your middle to low income minority groups. Yet, companies continued to portray White, upper middle Americans in their ads, an ad executive observed astutely.
Ad agencies then worked to change the faces of many snack companies to better reflect their consumers, showing Hispanic and African Americans in more of their commercials and print ads. This brilliant marketing insight to take the flip side of the health conscious consumer has reaped record sales for junk food companies. It has also, however, contributed to the level of obesity and obesity related problems of the middle and lower class. (This statement deserves a paper…which I wrote—except it was in Spanish.)
Environmentalism will likely suffer the same fate if consumers base their environmental track on how often they shop at Whole Foods, or whether or not they have a “I’m Not a Plastic Bag” tote. Companies have already exploited the label of “environmentalist,” with an influx of “organic” labels on skin products and laundry detergent—when in reality there is no government oversight over the use of the word “organic” for these products (only exists for food).
(I went on a bird walk at the South Coast Botanical Gardens & it just made me think about the future of environmentalism with record sales of environmental shirts but low volunteer turn-out).