Some people claim they are "sick of green," but in reality, more people than ever are concerned about the environment and are making choices that reflect this commitment. We think it's interesting to reflect on the changes that have come about in the last four years since we started Green Halloween®.
Here's some of what we think is in people's minds as we head into holidays, 2010. (Except where noted, these ideas are based on personal observation and experience):
What the heck is green anyway?
There remains a lot of confusion about what “green,” environmentally-friendly and "sustainable" mean. The consumers we know want simplicity and transparency. What they’re getting is far too much "greenwashing" by companies big and small which has left them confused and frustrated.
The FTC rulings Proposed Revisions to Green Guides are a move in the right direction in terms of clarifying terms and expectations. But for this holiday season, we're stuck with the words "green" and "eco-friendly," which, while remaining unclarified, do seem to carry weight with many buyers. And, despite the confusion, more than one-third (35 percent) of U.S. consumers say they would pay more for environmentally-friendly products according to a survey on “green” living from market research firm Mintel.
Social responsibility and Fair Trade
People may not be able to exactly define “green,” (I’ll know it when I see it), but an increasing number seem genuinely interested in what companies are doing to support their communities or causes, whether local or international.
There’s an increasing interest in where items come from, who makes them, how those people are treated and what goes back to the communities where products are produced.
Some people make it a point to shop Fair Trade stores (online and in person), and are eager to buy from companies that support causes they believe in.
The rise of environmentally friendly toys
When Corey’s first child was born unless you wanted to purchase toys made outside of the U.S., it was next to impossible to find a good selection of non-plastic playthings.
Now, parents can choose from a bonanza of sustainably harvested wood, wool, silk, recycled paper/cardboard, re-purposed fabric and other material choices for toys that are safer for children and that parents can feel good about buying.
Another indication that eco-friendly is in when it comes to kids toys? This year, for the first time, the American International Toy Fair had a dedicated space for green toys.
Until recently, most American parents indulged their children's whims, especially when it came to food (though they did feel guilty about it). Parents had been convinced by marketers that even chocolate cereal had nutritional value!
The explosion of interest in Green Halloween®, has shown us that parents have become much more concerned about providing healthier (and preferably more Earth-friendly) alternatives to the junk food habit Americans have fallen prey to. At this year's Green Halloween events at more than 40 zoos and aquariums across the country, parents were extremely appreciative of the healthier treats and treasures being offered. And guess what? Believe it or not, kids were perfectly happy to receive substitutes for conventional candy.
Handmade and local are in!
, the largest online, handmade marketplace grew in its initial thirty-three months to a marketplace with over 120,000 sellers in 127 different countries.
As of May 2009, it had sales of $10 to 13 million per month. By April 2010, sales had exploded to $22.4 million.
Handmade is big business!
The recession probably has something to do with interest in all things hand- and home- made, along with longing for a simpler, less stressful time.
In addition, the “buy local” movement continues to gain steam whether we’re talking about food or other items.
Overall, we know that people are asking questions and are beginning to become much more involved and interested in their purchasing. They may not be totally committed to buying “green,” but they are starting to wake up to ideas around sourcing, life cycles, packaging etc. Instead of buying on auto-pilot, they're spending time thinking about what and whether to buy. Companies tell us that their customers are beginning to ask about sustainability of products as well as the company's commitment to green. Some even make suggestions about how items can be better packaged, for instance, something that was unheard of only a few years ago
Overall, this holiday season, we expect to see more purchases of products that people can feel good about by people who are committed to more eco-friendly buying.
How about you? Have your holiday buying habits changed from 2009? Are you thinking more about sustainable aspects of what you purchase?
Lynn Colwell and Corey Colwell-Lipson
mother-daughter team and co-authors of Celebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy
Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family, available at