Green—once the label given to an environmental fringe movement—is now squarely in the mainstream. These days, 83% of consumers identify themselves as being some shade of green, from “light” and “bright greens,” to “super greens.” Versatile and nuanced, green was once a great word choice for eco-adopters. But it has become so overused; we’ve started turning our eyes and ears away from claims that just might be “greenwashed.”
Green is vast. Green is vague. Green is everywhere. As a result, green has become almost a little too easy. Because the term is so ubiquitous and often undefined, when green is unsubstantiated, it’s almost meaningless.
Labeling a product as green feels like an add-on, a nice-to-have. Often, green is seen as more expensive. Typically, green isn’t billed as an essential component of a product or service. So, you may decide green isn’t worth paying for.
Green no longer catches our attention. It certainly doesn’t differentiate. When it comes to environmental communications, green is about as distinct as an image of a single seedling or a wind farm.
Green is crunchy. Green is for tree huggers. The term has been so co-opted and abused that, for CR pros trying to create a connection, green can create more division than unity.
Green is the color of chlorophyll, which enables plants to convert sunlight into energy. Green also signifies rebirth, health and the hope of springtime—immediate sensory associations that are useful for conveying environmental benefits of a product or service.
Unlike other lengthier, abstract terms like sustainable, green is both tangible and easy for people to understand and remember. What’s more, being/thinking/living green is often portrayed as a series of small changes, so it feels utterly achievable.
Green is a positive and emotionally evocative color—optimistic, lucky. Just saying the word conjures lazy summer days, lying on the grass in the backyard. That kind of emotional resonance is indispensable when you’re trying to connect with someone.
In Western cultures, green means go! Great for giving consumers subtle, subliminal permission to go ahead and buy it! It’s OK! Looking for a term that can inspire action? “Go green” is your go-to for getting people on board.
For something as complex as environmental sustainability, one word can’t do it all. Remember all the other tools you have to convey the concept of green: image, description, story. Using them can help you engage audiences in a more meaningful conversation.
Stop talking about green as an extra, and start talking about it as a reason for being. You can motivate people to choose sustainability by helping them understand that it delivers not just environmental benefits, but better performance as well.
With thousands of messages barraging individuals each day, it takes more than green to generate attention. Get beyond the generic “go green” and target what your audiences truly care about.
To engage people, consider dropping the highly polarizing word green altogether and choose the language of universal values instead. Hope. Optimism. Future. Health. Growth. That way, you can show the positive impact of being green, without ever using the word.
It’s hard to know just where the term that’s come to signify so many aspects of the environmental movement actually originated. Is green’s etymology rooted in a defiance that became the catalyst for the “new,” counter green revolution? Or perhaps the term sprang from the influential words of conservationist and Silent Spring author Rachel Carson, a pivotal figure in the modern environmental movement: “Water, soil and the Earth’s green mantle of plants make up the world that supports the animal life of the Earth.”
Got a word that doesn’t work, but can’t think of another way to say what you mean? Leave us a comment and we just might add it to a future release. Problem solved!