Is Brown the New Green?

I saw a poster in the train station the other day, “Be green; switch off idling engine” Let me first state the obvious. I agree. Switching off idling engines is a marvelous idea. Now to the not so good bit, so listen up folks: Switching off an idling engine for a bit, doesn’t make you “green” it makes you less “brown” or whatever the logical opposite is.

Recently I was in Australia. On the TV, I saw a commercial for a well-known brand of fly-spray. The perfect lady in the perfect house with perfect kids had a terrible problem. Dirty flies were invading her perfect world and spreading yucky diseases. The solution? Fly-spray. Let me first stare the obvious: I agree. Flies are dirty and spread disease. My problem here is the perfect lady in the perfect house picked up a handy can of prominently displayed product and sprayed. Superimposed coming out of the can – was a multitude of green leaves that gracefully swept the flies away – as if fly-spray is some sort of natural greenie insect removing wonder. It’s not. It’s poison.

My third observation: At Hong Kong airport, there is an advertisement. As I made my way to immigration there it was, a big poster: Under a wondrously lush rainforest scene, it boldly demanded: “Save Brazil”. Intrigued, I stopped and read the little print below. Get this; it was sponsored by a Petroleum company. Let me first state the obvious: I agree. Save Brazil, whatever that means. But seriously, are they having me on? A Petroleum companies job is to dig, drill, scrape or gouge oil and its by-products from the earth, then turn it into a myriad of noxious chemicals. Useful? Sure, and maybe even necessary, but green, they are not.

Am I alone in my cynical view that Petroleum Company has any real interest apart from cynical PR spin, to “Save Brazil”?  Does a fly-spray company believe its product is similar in any way to leaves on a tree? Is it actually being ‘green’, occasionally turning off your carbon monoxide spluttering engine?

Here’s a weird idea: let’s call things for what they are. I’m not green if I turn off my idling engine; I’m just less of a polluter. PR and advertising companies (not you, Rick, lol) inundate us daily, trying to steer us into thinking or acting in a certain way. Watch any advertisement on TV or in magazines for petrol, and I guarantee it will contain images of lush green fields and will prominently use the word “clean”, over and over. They will be “striving for a cleaner future”, “making a cleaner product”, or happily telling you: “our petrol cleans your engine as you drive”, what they mean is: “All the gunk that your engine produces through the magic of internal combustion, will be liberally sprayed into the atmosphere for all to enjoy”.

Being green, means you own a fly swatter and walk to work. Personally, I’m not so green, but I try to be less ‘brown’. I do a fair bit of walking, but I also drive my car, catch taxi’s, spray flies, and perform any number of tasks that harm the environment. I want to teach my kids to live their lives being mindful of polluting, encouraging them to reduce their footprint on the world, responsibly – not pretending it’s green if you pollute just a little bit – because that line in the sand is way too easy to move.

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About Tim

I'm an expat dad, living in Hong Kong. Being a parent, especially a dad, is simply fraught with danger. Mums seem to have this built-in radar for trouble and danger - I do not. http://beingdadinasia.com - all about my life, being dad. http://achipofftheoldblog - all about the funny and strange things I see. View all posts by Tim

One response to “Is Brown the New Green?

  • Monica

    hilarious mention of Rick :) I’m a bit late picking that one up :)
    poignant discussion on the issue of green and brown – very relevant, and very true on what we do in advertising. It’s all about greenwashing anything remotely relevant to the product/issue/etc… if it’s meant to help the product. Marketers often think Joe Public is not quite as wise to it…

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