Shades of Green
As the once-publisher at Chelsea “Green” books and of Green Living Journal, a quarterly publication that explores “green” living, and the editor of the anthology The New Village Green, I have thought deeply on the meaning of green. What does it mean to be “green?” It’s not a simple question and does not have a simple answer. It’s almost as complicated as that crossroads you face at the end of the checkout line, “Paper or plastic?”
Green can be a verb, noun, or adjective. “Greenmail” refers to the Wall St. practice whereby undervalued companies are acquired, chopped into little chunks and sold piecemeal, a reminder that only a single letter separates the word “green” from “greed.”
Green is the color of money. A dollar bill is a greenback, not to be confused with a “wetback,” slang for an illegal alien who does not possess a green card. A ring of cheap or false gold will turn your finger green.
Within the business community a topic of hot debate is greenwashing, what happens when a company cloaks itself in a mantle of green, not as a commitment to the environment, but as a marketing strategy. You can attach solar panels to Wal-Mart, say detractors, but what you get is Wal-greens. Beware of wolves with green fur.
Green politics can be confusing. The Green Party, a political organization that supports an environmental agenda, is widely blamed for costing Al Gore, an environmentalist, the Presidential election.
Perhaps Kermit the Frog said it best when he lamented “It’s not easy being green.” Some real world frogs, living in altered natural habitats, are finding that to be true.
Has the concept of “green” been so co-opted? No, it is the flexibility and resilience of “green” that give it staying power. Other words have tried to replace green. “Natural,” “authentic,” “organic,” “ecological,” “sustainable,” and, currently, “local” have their moments of linguistic glory, but we always return to green.
A rookie in baseball is green. Green is the relaxing backdrop for ballparks, and at least at Fenway, you can watch a ball disappear over the Green Monster.
Green is ephemeral, but green can be precious and enduring. Emerald is at once a gem and a shade of green. Forest, lime, olive, sea, Hunter, Kelly, and British Racing are distinct shades of green.
Mix them together and you get camouflage, often associated with hunters and the military. Deep green describes the most committed environmental stewards, such as members of Greenpeace. Think of what will be possible if we can get these green extremes to recognize that they are different hues of the same color.
The Green Room is where actors relax before a performance. You might find the band Green Day hanging out there, or
Al Green, or Tom Hanks, who starred in The Green Mile. Green is the color of envy, but also the color around our gills just before we get sick.
Green is the patch of grass around which our village is centered, but it’s also the finely manicured spot on the golf course where you hear lots of cursing.
My most exciting moment of the year is in April when I peek under the mulch that covers the garlic planted last fall. The garden is half mud, half frozen dirt, with nary a sign of life. I brush away the snow and gently lift the straw. There it is … a delicate slip of green reaching for the sun.
Soon the landscape will be roaring with green. Nature will be abhorring vacuums and filling every void with life. Vermont, itself an anglicized combination of the French “vert” and “montagne” will be resounding with the meaning of green.
At a recent conference I saw a t-shirt that proclaimed “Green is the new red, white, and blue.” I disagree. This would mean that green somehow belongs to America. Although I am completely in favor this country setting a green standard for the rest of the world (we’ve got a long way to go), the common ground of our environment must transcend political boundaries.
Another t-shirt at the same conference stated “Green is the new black.” The wearer was African American. This a provocative statement open to varying interpretations. The one I prefer is that matters of environment supercede those of race. Global warming, after all, is an equal opportunity natural disaster that promises to affect people regardless of race, creed, color, or national origin … unless we all start to live more green.
Green living, therefore, is the winning strategy for people, community, and planet in the future. Green, we will learn, is the new gold.