Greed In the Name Of Green

To Worshipers of Consumption: Spending Won't Save the Earth

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 5, 2008; Page C01

Congregation of the Church of the Holy Organic, let us buy.

Let us buy Anna Sova Luxury Organics Turkish towels, 900 grams per square meter, $58 apiece. Let us buy the eco-friendly 600-thread-count bed sheets, milled in Switzerland with U.S. cotton, $570 for queen-size.

Let us purge our closets of those sinful synthetics, purify ourselves in the flame of the soy candle at the altar of the immaculate Earth Weave rug, and let us buy, buy, buy until we are whipped into a beatific froth of free-range fulfillment.

And let us never consider the other organic option -- not buying -- because the new green consumer wants to consume, to be more celadon than emerald, in the right color family but muted, without all the hand-me-down baby clothes and out-of-date carpet.

* * *

There was a time, and it was pre-Al Gore, when buying organic meant eggs and tomatoes, Whole Foods and farmer's markets. But in the past two years, the word has seeped out of the supermarket and into the home store, into the vacation industry, into the Wal-Mart. Almost three-quarters of the U.S. population buys organic products at least occasionally; between 2005 and 2006 the sale of organic non-food items increased 26 percent, from $744 million to $938 million, according to the Organic Trade Association.

Green is the new black, carbon is the new kryptonite, blah blah blah. The privileged eco-friendly American realized long ago that SUVs were Death Stars; now we see that our gas-only Lexus is one, too. Best replace it with a 2008 LS 600 hybrid for $104,000 (it actually gets fewer miles per gallon than some traditional makes, but, see, it is a hybrid). Accessorize the interior with an organic Sherpa car seat cover for only $119.99.

Consuming until you're squeaky green. It feels so good. It looks so good. It feels so good to look so good, which is why conspicuousness is key.

T hese countertops are pressed paper.

Have I shown you my recycled platinum engagement ring?

In the past two weeks, our inbox has runneth over with giddily organic products: There's the 100 percent Organic Solana Swaddle Wrap, designed to replace baby blankets we did not even know were evil. There's the Valentine's pitch, "Forget Red -- The color of love this season is Green!" It is advertising a water filter. There are the all-natural wasabi-covered goji berries, $30 for a snack six-pack, representing "a rare feat for wasabi."

There is the rebirth of Organic Style magazine, now only online but still as fashionable as ever, with a shopping section devoted to organic jewelry, organic pet bedding, organic garden decor, which apparently means more than "flowers" and "dirt."

CONTINUED     1           >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company