“Greener than Thou”

June 3rd, 2008

Most of us know to keep our distance from people with “holier than thou” attitudes. But how do you respond to those who profess to be “greener than thou?”

If you’re not fully public with your green views, you may not have run into the “greener than thou” phenomenon yet – but trust me, you will.

Last summer, it caught me off guard when a friend asked, “How many trees did you kill?” as he watched me grab a bunch of paper towels to wipe up yet another baby spill. For a few moments I had no idea what on earth he was talking about. I had never considered my good ole’ Bounty “Quicker Picker Uppers” to be dead trees! When I realized he was chastising me for an eco-mistake, I felt embarassed and awkward.

Last week, Green Mommy blogger Sommer of Green and Clean Mom confessed on her blog that she drove an SUV and was tired of apologizing for it. Backlash? Well, she lost subscribers as a result of her post, and as you can imagine, parts of the green blogosphere were abuzz about this. Max Gladwell weighed in with some supportive tweets on her side, and Green Daily covering the controversy with the question, “Can you call yourself green and drive an SUV?”

Check out the links – there are some interesting arguments on both sides.

I hate SUVs for many reasons – I’m more in the Prius camp myself. But I do think you need to give people the benefit of the doubt and avoid being “greener than thou.” You don’t know what unique trade-offs each person makes when buying a car, and unless you’re personally measuring someone’s carbon footprint and recycling matter, you really don’t know who is “greener” than whom.

What do you think? Leave a comment and share!

— Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

11 Responses to ““Greener than Thou””

  1. Kristen on June 4, 2008 10:26 am

    This is a great post. I am the opposite of “greener than thou” – I tend to play down my shade of green because I still consider us to be neophytes on the organic/green scene (meanwhile, my DH ripped apart our drainage spouts last night and attached monstrously large rain collection barrels – we accumulated well over 100 gallons of water in last night’s storm. So perhaps we are a shade darker than mint after all…?)

    My point is that I refuse to judge someone who makes at least some effort. Who among us is truly 100% green and never makes concessions? I give credit to anyone who tries; it’s better than nothing and all for the greater good.

    Thanks, Kristen. I’m with you on this! Hmmm..all that water! Wow! Swimming, anyone? — Lynn

  2. Sprinting Across the Web | JivaFit on June 4, 2008 11:56 am

    […] Organic Mania delves into the “greener than thou” phenomenon. Do you have a green ‘tude? […]

  3. Sue on June 4, 2008 6:58 pm

    There are always plenty of people to find who are greener than thou-like my cousin who doesn’t own a car, mass transits everywhere and makes her own granola and then again those who make me look truly green, like my own dad who throws recycling in the trash. It’s all a matter of scale.

    I remember a story about glass houses and stones…so best not to point a finger least one comes back at ya.

    Your reader Kristin has an interesting idea, shades of green. I’m myself somewhere between mint and grass and was just plotting my own rain barrel collection scheme. Encouraging, 100 gallons that’s quite a bit of garden water for these hot summer days ahead. Any ideas on how to water your lawn with the rain barrel water?

    I have no idea! But I’m sure some entreprising eco-preneur has figured it out! I was thinking it would be fun to use in the kiddie pool! :) — Lynn

  4. Dave Heffernan on June 5, 2008 10:34 am

    “Greener than thou,” finger-wagging attitudes are unwelcome and unhelpful. And, like their “holier than thou” or “more patriotic than thou” cousins, often mask a whiff of hypocracy.


    Good analogies, Dave! Thanks for stopping by OrganicMania! — Lynn

  5. Jarreau on June 7, 2008 7:56 am

    The whole “who is greener” topic is very interesting and relevant. It does seem odd when people profess their eco ways, touting organic detergent & hemp shirts, right before jumping in their H3 hummer….hmmm?

    Though, any step toward progression, be it genuine or not, is liable to become sticky and spread to true “green” followers.

    I agree, Lynn, tracking any one person’s footprint or their “greenness” is impossible. However, we can track groups or organizations as a whole unit, which in my humble opinion, is what really matters.

    There is a new website based out of Boston called IzzitGreen.com

    The site rates local businesses, stores, services, restaurants, etc based on how good they are but also how GREEN they are. The content is user generated, so users have control of all the reviews and guides.

    The interesting thing here is that people can learn what their favorite bar or cafe etc is doing to preserve the earth. Users can actually track and rate how green a business is…this is a useful yardstick for patrons and could be an inspiration for businesses.


    Interesting concept, thanks for pointing it out. I’d like to see it expanded beyond Boston – look forward to exploring the site. — Lynn

  6. The Not Quite Crunchy Parent on June 8, 2008 8:21 am

    Great piece, Lynn,

    There are shades of green because every life has a variety of, sometimes conflicting, priorities. Hmmm…sounds like a post idea- I’ll link back.

    BTW- according to the LOHAS profiles, most of we readers of your blog are in the top 3 segments.


    MC – great link to follow. I was heartened to read that only 19% are categorized as “unconcerneds.” I would have thought the number would have been larger…but caring and doing are two different things! — Lynn

  7. Anna (Green Talk) on June 8, 2008 4:16 pm

    Lynn, I have to agree with your post. I think everyone has to do what they feel comfortable. Once people start jugding people, it will really turn others off. Is this what we want?

    Every little bit helps.

    I agree… those times when I’ve been tempted to judge, I’ve been caught short myself. Yet I do understand why some people go down this route – it’s their own passion and concern that drives them. — Lynn

  8. Crunchy Chicken on June 9, 2008 10:15 am

    Amazing. I would never criticize or make snide comments about someone else’s choices. The only way to even make a dent in another person’s behavior is by leading by example, without judgment.

    If someone asks me what I think, I’ll most certainly let them know what their options are or what I do, but you have to leave the choice up to them without incrimination. That just makes people defensive and, worse, offended. You then shut down the opportunity to make any positive impact.

    By the same token, I’ve had people (relatives) visit my house and spend a considerable amount of time picking apart what I do and/or making fun of the lifestyle choices that I’ve made to minimize my impact on the planet. I think it makes them feel better – to justify their own actions or inaction. It’s easier to write me off as being extreme (and we’re talking just about things like no paper towels, etc. here) than to think about their own choices and behavior.

    Hey Crunchy, I totally agree with you – and thanks so much for stopping by OrganicMania! I bet all of us Green Mommy bloggers could swap stories about what our family’s REALLY think…my DH is known to talk about “OrganicManiac Hell!” :) — Lynn

  9. Amy on June 13, 2008 11:52 am

    I agree that each and every person has unique situation so we shouldn’t judge them base on certain situation.

    I think we should all celebrate the effort each one is trying to do to be green. If we shot down a person just because they drive SUV, what good does it do to the environment? How do we know that she might be planting her own garden, having solar system in her whole house??

    Just my 2 cents. :)


  10. Alana on June 16, 2008 6:19 am

    I agree with Crunchy, a sure-fire way of turning people off and convincing them NOT to make changes is to criticize their choices.

    Leading by example is definitely the best way. Our street is a perfect example. For a long time we were one of few houses that put out recycling each week – it has steadily spread from house to house. I am happy to say, last night when I went to put bottles and cans out, EVERY house within sight was recycling! YEAH!

    That’s great, Alana! What a terrific story! — Lynn

  11. Organic and Green Mom Blog | Organic Savings on the Fly: Organic Milk & Organic Berries at Organic Mania on October 11, 2008 6:12 am

    […] about the “green-ness” of “Big Organic,” and a few may even claim to be “Greener than Thou” by buying raw organic milk or organic milk for a local dairy. OrganicMania views this blog as a […]

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