Green is the new black.
Take a look around and you might notice that some of your most plugged-in friends are going green. They're lighting their homes with smart bulbs, washing their clothes in cold water, using biodegradable and no-phosphate laundry detergents, wiping the floors with solvent-free cleaners and sleeping on bamboo-fiber sheets. They might even be going on eco vacations, attending eco weddings and staying in eco hotels.
Green is infiltrating areas once governed by considerations solely about cool and good taste: home decor (rugs from recycled plastic bottles, tables of reclaimed wood, bed and bath essentials from organic fibers); food and dining out (organic, vegan, raw food and slow food); fashion and beauty (eco-friendly makeup and skin-care lines, soy-based underwear, the new line of 100 percent organic cotton Levi's Eco); and even our hot wheels (alternative fuel, natural gas, electric, hybrid and ethanol cars).
Today, however, there are so many hip items in the marketplace — that just happen to be environmentally friendly and ecologically conscious — that you can be a tree-hugger without screaming tree-hugger. Eco is chic. It might even be the hottest new lifestyle accessory.
"Interest in environmentally conscious citizenship has been slowly building in the past few years. It has been spurred by 'An Inconvenient Truth' and activism by celebrities like Leo DiCaprio," says Constance White, trend expert and fashion editor for eBay. "The emphasis has been on cars and food, and now it's sweeping into fashion. But the challenge fashion, beauty and home face is the same one car manufacturers have started grappling with. Shoppers want to be responsible but they want it all — style, comfort and chic ... along with their granola."
Time was when only granola chompers were waving the eco banner. Now you can't swing a birch branch without hitting something terribly chic and smart that just so happens to do something nice for this planet we live on.
"It's coming from all angles. Designers are realizing the importance of making things healthy for the planet and good for the user in the home. Designers are interested in making beautiful things that make sense. That's the thing about green: It's efficient," says Ruth Altchek, senior editor of Domino, a shelter magazine whose March issue was devoted to green living. "The consumer, too, is realizing the importance of making things healthy for the planet. They're demanding the same level of style and also demanding green."
According to James Canton, CEO and chairman of the Institute for Global Futures, "Green and Clean" is one of the top 10 trends highlighted in his global report for 2007. Cleaning the planet, reducing foreign oil dependence and stopping global warming are now concerns not just of big business but of the average citizen, Canton says.
"This is a huge new trend in consumer behavior. From hybrid cars to organic food to green investment policies," Canton states in his report. "Consumers will want increased corporate accountability in protecting and saving the environment. Smart companies will leverage 'Green & Clean.'"
While eco consciousness now has the stamp of hip, there's also the consumer having many more eco choices — not just scratchy burlap bags.
"It's much easier these days to shop eco because stores are stocking more, and the Internet was not a significant shopping factor 10 years ago. Now it's huge," White says. "The Internet is key because the environmental movement here is very much a grass-roots movement, and the Web has enabled small citizen entrepreneurs to sell and buy in this manner even when big business or government was not supporting it."
Although green certainly has built itself from the ground up, big business has brought the message to the masses (while also cashing in on the eco awakening).
"Retailers follow the dollars, and as we see more shoppers looking to buy eco, they are making sure they can meet the demand," White says. "It also makes retailers look like they themselves are responsible citizens, and that's good for business these days."
For those who have bought into eco for years, there's a certain satisfaction in seeing a growing public latch on to eco chic. For some, it's not all about the politics and think-globally-act-locally stuff. Eco can simply feel good.
"It's a whole market niche that has opened up. The bar is continuing to be raised, and people are going to demand the quality of stuff and range of stuff they want to be environmentally friendly," Altchek says. "People take so much pride in knowing that what they're bringing into the home is good from every perspective. It's progressive, but it's also returning to much simpler things. Cotton grown without pesticides is about as old-fashioned as you can get."