Thursday, March 5, 2009

Are We US Canteen green?

What is the color most people think of when they imagine what we do in Environmental Studies? That's an easy one: green. And yes, the ENVS Program at Lewis & Clark works with students toward greening their campuses, their communities, and their world. But the real question is: what kind of green? Scholars have long differentiated green philosophies and movements into light and dark varietals, and more recently scholars have advocated what could be called "rainbow environmentalism," situating traditional environmental concerns in a broader rubric that includes social, political, economic, and other dimensions of well-being—i.e., more colors than just green.

Perhaps there's no better reason for environmental scholars to ask "What kind of green?" than when we see examples of greenwashing, which I define broadly as using green to sell something. My most humorous example appeared recently as an ad in the New York Times. Check out US Canteen: run, don't walk to their website, where you can spend on the order of $150 for something you put water in that used to sell in Army Surplus stores for about $1.50. Oh yes, you are investing "in a greener Earth" when you do so.

So tell me, what kind of green? Lewis & Clark's Environmental Studies Program realizes that we need to do far more than teach students how to be green—a term that has arguably lost any scholarly credibility in today's world of greenwashing. This is one thing that makes our ENVS Program distinctive, and we encourage you to check us out.

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