Green for Me or Green for Us

Small plant in a woman's hand

What is green for me isn’t necessarily green for us. What is green for now isn’t necessarily green forever. Global sustainability as a standard isn’t necessarily the only way each of us makes choices for our families.

One of our customers asked, “What is the difference between products that are green for the environment and green for health?” That is a seemingly simple question that breaks out into a lot of complexities depending on how we make our choices. To look at it very simply, products that are green for health have no (or fewer) immediate negative effects on us; products that are green for the environment have no (or fewer) global negative effects. The problem is, the global negative effects as immediate to someone, and they do come back to all of us as they change and poison our basic resources. We end up with poisoned water from pesticide runoff with convention cotton growing, flooding after mountain-top removal to mine coal used to produce moderated scrubbed “clean coal” energy, high asthma rates near power plants using natural gas for more so-called clean energy, and so on.

Just because a particular choice is good for the planet, a choice like organic clothing, doesn’t mean it has an immediate impact on health. Choosing organic fibers has a big impact on global health, though, and it has a big impact on the immediate health of workers in the fields. Poisoning the fields today will continue to have immediate effects close to the field and downstream effects for us all. By the time those effects are felt, will we still connect them to the choice to buy organic clothing or not? I hope so, but we don’t always draw straight lines that way. Is organic clothing good for my children’s immediate health? Probably not. Is organic clothing good for the environment? Absolutely. As I wrote earlier this week, though, the choices with children’s clothing aren’t black and white, and other issues (like short-term cash flow) can trump our best intentions.

Most of us as parents are trying to improve choices. Some of the problems we are trying to solve are acute; some are chronic. Some of the problems we are trying to solve involve immediate effects on our children; some are global.

Ultimately, green for the environment means green for health in the long term. What is good for the environment, what is sustainable is good for you. You can pay the price now or later, but we all share positive and negative effects on our global environment.

Image © Sergii Kolesnyk |

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