Are we in a green bubble?

Everywhere I look, companies are introducing green this and eco-friendly that. Just today, I got a bill from Comcast and they were highlighting their new “Eco-bill”, which is simply signing up for online statements. Really? We’ve had online statements for years, but now they’re selling them to us as “eco-friendly”? The problem with all this stuff is that almost all of it is more about marketing and playing to the green hype than it is true efforts at change or sustainability.

Now don’t get me wrong. I think climate change is an issue. I think that we should take care of the earth. I think that sustainability, clean energy, and minimizing our ecological footprint are all important goals. But I get annoyed when people jump into the green thing just because it’s trendy, and especially when they buy into the hype that they’re on the forefront of a movement that will change the world. For example, I have this friend here in San Francisco who thinks that the green movement has changed the world so much over the last few decades, and will change the world so much over the next few. I think he’s crazy and wrapped up in the San Francisco bubble…the world is definitely much worse off today environmentally than it was thirty or forty years ago. And whether green is here to stay depends on one thing: economics.

People are selfish. They’re not going to really change unless there’s something in it for them. Sure, there are some noisy people in the green movement who will go out of their way to save the Earth, but most people won’t unless there’s a clear advantage to them. The only thing that can get people to change in the aggregate is economics. Most people won’t stop driving gas-guzzlers because of their individual impact on the environment by doing so, but they will if gas costs $10 / gallon. Especially with the current downturn in the economy, I think we’re going to see a backlash of consumer sentiment towards companies that charge a premium for green junk when it’s clearly just a marketing ploy. I think the long-term prospects for green are good, but only because technology will eventually make sustainability advantageous from an economic standpoint.

What do you think?