by Lindsay Vidrine
Do you remember when green was just a color? It was taught to children as a middle initial in the ROY G. BIV spectrum, and Kermit the Frog innocently sang about the trials and tribulations of being green.
The word green has had quite a linguistic run. A Wikipedia search reveals some of the emotional, cultural and political definitions green has carried over the years in addition to being a color:
The word green is closely related to the Old English verb growan, “to grow.” It is used to describe plants or the ocean. Sometimes it can also describe someone who is inexperienced, jealous, or sick. In America, green is a slang term for money, among other things. Several colloquialisms have derived from these meanings, such as “green around the gills,” a phrase used to describe a person who looks ill.
It’s amazing how one five letter word can convey everything from envy to cash to plants and vegetables to sustainability. Even our blog name contributes to these semantics.
On top of all of that, green has also become an entire movement. So does this word still hold value, or is it now diluted, commercialized branding jargon? Just Google the term green washing and you’ll find 11 million hits (in only .19 seconds by the way).
All of these definitions don’t even begin to delve into the fact that individuals also have their own perceptions and associations with the words like green, as well as others. If someone or something is described as green, conservative, liberal, granola, right- or left-wing, peak oil or so on, you immediately bring your own associations into your understanding however accurate they may or may not be.
So as a group interested in sustainability and the Green Movement, how do we overcome this word pollution while staying on message and not alienating anyone?
Kermit may have been right all along. It’s not easy being green, but if the conservative town of Greensburg, KS can do it, why can’t we? Their panel at the OSN Annual Conference discussed that when the idea of rebuilding sustainably came up it wasn’t politically charged. It was about human preservation and was deeply rooted in their agricultural values and connection to the land that has spanned many generations.
That got me interested in learning about how others view sustainability, regardless of our differences, political, geographical, financial, cultural, etc. I came across these interesting articles and blogs:
How to Create Change in a Conservative Culture
Liberal Isn't a Dirty Word; "conservative" Isn't Either
Terra Rossa – Where Conservatives Consider a New Energy Future
A Perspective on Earth Day from a green Christian conservative
One take away I had was that once you get past some of the alarmism and trigger words, both liberals and conservatives may actually share similar views on animal rights, energy issues and (dare I say) climate change.
So whether the challenge is keeping value in the words green and sustainability or learning how to best communicate to those on the opposite side of the aisle, it’s important that we think about our words and communication methods.
It may be the difference between change coming at a glacial pace or a groundswell.