The Wearing of the Green

By Jerry D. Haight

Is it really green? Green, a modern political buzzword that portends to save the planet from supposed global warming, protect the environment, save resources and generally makes a populace feel good about purchasing and living “green”. If it is advertised as “green” there is a marked attraction to buyers and while in the past it was “sex” that sold now it is “green” that sells.  But is it really “green”.

Take the example of a “green” T-shirt purchased, of course, on St. Patrick’s Day with a label clearly marked as “green”.  Ostensibly, the t-shirt was made from 100% organic cotton and therefore qualifies for the label but even organic cotton requires more than 2,600 gallons of water to grow enough fiber for just one t-shirt. What about the green dye? Was it made from a very common but hazardous triphenylmethane dye that leaches into the groundwater? What other chemicals were used to process the t-shirt? While one might be concerned with whether the cotton was organic, grown without the use of pesticides, does that include other fibers, fabric and thread that make up the t-shirt to reduce shrinking or add color and design? Just because the t-shirt is made from organically grown fibers, is it biodegradable or, when discarded, will it lie perpetually in a landfill together with millions of other similar garments.  

 If you liked the shirt but knew the workers that made it were virtually enslaved, paid mere pennies a  day, accorded no human rights, worked in an environment having no regards for ecology, carbon footprint or conservation would you still buy it? If you knew it was made in a country that condones belching smokestacks, rivers and streams that run black with pollutants with no attempt or concern made for remedy, would that be an issue? Many of the same issues apply to the many suppliers of goods and services that come together in a global economy making up a “simple” t-shirt.

When considering issues of worker’s pay and benefits, working conditions, labor and human rights, environmental health and safety, Societal impact of Governmental policies and the totality of resource management, is it really “green”.