Green and Sustainability – What does the word green mean?

Where did the word green come from?   The word’s earliest roots are with the Proto-Indo-Europeans, a loose collection of tribes that were the earliest agricultural communities. They used the word gro to mean grow.  In Northern Europe, the West Germanic people used the word gronj for the color green.  In the Dark Ages, when the Saxons (who were groups of German tribes) invaded England, the word changed to grene.  The Old English verb growan means “to grow.”

The word has many associations including growth, sickness, death, inexperience, youth, envy, and jealousy.  It also often it refers to nature, plants. regeneration, fertility and rebirth

The association of the word green with environmentalism emerged from the translation of the German word Grün, which was coined by die Grünen, an early formation of the Green party in Germany in the late 1970s which was a political ecology group, the Green Party.

Today the word seems to be associated with the environment, especially when used on products and in advertisements – but it is unclear exactly what green means. Green is often used to describe a product or service that possesses a lower carbon footprint, promotes recycling or pollution reduction, or something that is better for our natural environment that another product or choice.

Today there are over 300 eco-labels or green stickers that are labeling systems for consumer products and food.  On the website, there are over 430 labels that are used across the world.  Of these, I counted 36 that use the word green.  Some of these labels were GreenTag Certified, Green Table, GreenSure, Green Seal, Greenstar, Greenmark, and many more.

The New York Times has a Green blog which states it is about energy and the environment.  The U.S. Green Party has in its mission that it is,”committed to ecology, social justice grassroots democracy and nonviolence.”  The cleaning product Simple Green has a quote on its website, “A great day to be green!” As the word green as well as the word sustainable are being used more and more,  it is getting increasingly more confusing to determine what exactly these words mean.

One day our consumer products will be made from healthy and safe materials that, at the end of their life, will be taken apart and turned into raw materials for new products or returned to the earth as compost. These products will be manufactured using renewable energy and marketed with socially responsible strategies.  I’m not sure what they will be called, but if you know, let me know.

Image Source:
Google Image Search: Green

Ecolabel Index


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