Seems like a silly question, but I’ll bet a lot of people who say they are green might have trouble explaining what the term actually means.
My definition of green — at least as it relates to a product or service — takes into account many characteristics. If it’s a product, I believe it should be manufactured using renewable ingredients and components. It should also be free of petroleum-based components and anything would harm the environment (or the people who use it) such as phosphates, lead, hormone disruptors (think BPA or phthalates) and antibacterial elements — especially triclosan. Other ingredients I try and avoid are VOCs, poisonous or toxic additives, nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), DEA (which has been found to cause cancer), and formaldehyde. “Green” food products should be organic and contain actual food — nothing that is developed or produced in a lab. A rule of thumb that I’ve heard over and over again: If you can’t pronounce it, don’t ingest it. Packaging for all of the above should be recyclable or renewable, and use as little plastic as possible.
Dictionary.com defines green as “environmentally sound or beneficial.” I would agree. Green products should have as little impact on the environment as possible. And that’s where this whole discussion gets cloudy. How green is organic coffee grown in South America once it gets to New York? Sure, it might be grown organically in a way that supports local growers, but how can anyone overlook the fact that it has to travel via airplane or boat to the U.S. where it’s put into a truck that guzzles gas and spews carbon monoxide along the way?
Of course, thinking like this could make you crazy. So, what’s your definition of green? How does it affect how you shop and live? I’d like to know.