Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Varied Shades of Green

Becky and I just returned home from the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Salt Lake City. For us, this is a 4 day blur where we decide on our product lineup for Spring '08. This year, one of the over-riding themes that we saw everywhere we looked was the "greening" of our industry.

Only a couple of years ago, you would have been hard pressed to find more than a handful of companies talking about green technology utilized in their operations or their products. Now, it seems to be pervading everything. Forgive me for being the eternal cynic, but I wonder how many of these companies will be pounding the green drum 3 years from now.

The outdoor industry is perfect for championing all things green. All of us as enthusiasts love
the outdoors and (logically would seem to) care if a company is destroying the earth in order to produce a product for us to go out and enjoy the earth. Hmmm.... My question is do we really care? And how much do we care? Where is our threshold?

I found myself studying a new sleeping bag being made that is constructed using some recycled drink bottles. My first instinct was to: a) see how much it cost compared to its petroleum counterpart; and b) How much it weighed vs. the standard model. Obviously - even I have some kind of threshold. If the standard bag costs $150 would I purchase the recycled one for $175? How about $200? Even more disturbing is that I am checking performance questions - Will the bag be as warm? Is it as durable? Does it weigh more? In other words - I am all for the environment - but obviously because I am looking, there is some performance standard at which I would be more than willing to destroy the environment to have a better sleeping bag. Or a bag that costs less. Or a bag that looks cooler.

Which brings us back to the question of how many of these outdoor companies that are out there screaming "GREEN" right now will be doing so in 3 years. I think that all depends on me and it depends on you. Does it matter to us how the products we buy are produced? Do we care if the company that made the product has a zero carbon footprint? Will we pay more for a product made by a company like this? Will we even take the time and energy to find out? The answer to all these questions will determine the answer to the big question. If we respond and purchase from responsible companies producing great products that are easier on the environment, then 3 years from now, the sky is the limit.

We are all children of our society. In America, we like things to be black and white. We are programmed to think "What am I getting" and "What am I paying". We have all been brainwashed by slogans like: "Always Low Prices - Always". We are trained as Americans to make decisions on a strict price/value relationship. Our responsibilities are as consumers with regards to the treatment of the planet (as well as the treatment of the people) in the production of these products is simply not on the radar screen. But maybe they should be.

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