Going Green

Every day, I hear about the focus on going green. According to the CSLS 2012, when it comes to sponsorship and sponsorship marketing, the “going green” and environmental perspective is near the top of the list for consumers and brands. But I get sick of it. The green washing is almost worse than the pink washing every October.

I think common sense has to prevail. It is sort of like the CSR or “Corporate Social Responsibility” blabber that continues to fill HR positions and creates entire departments of staff and workloads to do what I consider to be common sense. Do what is right. End of story. Run a sponsorship program that you believe in and will drive value for your business. Don’t design new ethics and morals for your company to suit the “flavour of the month.” Just do what is right, market that standard, and live by it. End of story.

This all really became clear to me when I was forwarded an article published in Outlook magazine back in September by an unknown author. It ages me because I remember all of this. But it really drove all this green washing, CSR, and “creating programs and marketing ideas” when we should just be doing what is common sense and practical. Here it is.

Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment. The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.” The young clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.” 

She was right—our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day. Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags that we reused for numerous things, most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for use by the school) was not defaced by our scribbling. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags. But too bad we didn’t do the green thing back then.

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horse power machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts—wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand new clothing. But that young lady is right; we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house—not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the province of Ontario. We didn’t ”think green” back then. 

In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she’s right; we didn’t have the green thing back then.

We drank from the fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint. But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?

I think we need to get back to basics. We need to return to our roots, understand our core businesses, and market them accordingly. Don’t let people’s “make myself a job” creativity plans and amazing ideas rule our work. Step back and do what is right and all the rest will fall into place. Gimmicks and propaganda don’t stay strong for long. True values and common sense do.

These are just one person’s thoughts. Yours are welcomed as well. Please add your thoughts or comments below. Thank you for reading and your feedback.

Brent Barootes


  1. Love it!! You really touched on how consumerism is driving the need for “the green thing”.
    When it comes to CSR, there are positive reasons for having them in large companies – the need to lead awareness and change. The problem is in getting tangled up in “political correctness”.
    One final comment: – milk always tasted better coming from a glass bottle and it employed more people but that’s another story around consumerism.

  2. Jim,
    Thanks. I agree. Milk aways tasted better from the bottle. And my milk man used to give me a ride to school on the milk truck on cold winter days. An added bonus.

  3. Nicely said!

  4. Whilst in agreement that current society is hugely wasteful and small “green” initiatives such as a “bag for life” rather than a plastic bag are not the answer; and solely a means to justify greed or feel good about oneself, I also have a few issues with the points raised.

    Your tone implies that it was a concious effort in previous years to live life in a green way – when in reality it was a different era in term of technology. For example you say “When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power.” If you say that people used a push mower to live in a more green fashion, and would not have used an engine mower if it were available, I think you would be kidding yourself.

    You raise some interesting points but feel that your issues are more with the whole concept of a capitalist and consumerist society than the current generation who cannot be blamed for the society in which they have grown up.

  5. Robbie,
    I would agree that those of the past generation were not focused on “green” when walking to the store or pushing a lawn mower. I would also agree that commercialism has truly been a major part of the impact, but that the generational difference, though not responsible for where we are today but rather a product of it should be aware of history and the past. Too often they are not.

  6. Great points and good common sense perspective!


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