Sunday, May 4, 2008

Black the New Green: The Power of Small Gestures

A couple of years ago Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter declared "Green is the new black." Now, two years later, black is the new Green.

Energy saving, search sites like Blackoogle and Blackle are proclaiming "Black is the new Green." These two sites were created “to remind us all of the need to take small steps in our everyday lives to save energy.” Powered by GOOGLE Custom Search™. Blackoogle and Blackle save energy because the search screens are predominantly black. A monitor requires more power to display a white (or light) screen than a black (or dark) screen. Several studies have shown that up to a 20% saving could be reached on CRT monitors Energy Star Desktop Information.

The significance of such measures should not be overlooked. As explained in a Treehugger article: “[T]here are over 600 million computers in the world, many of which never get turned off. For the sake of argument, let's say their screen savers are running around the clock. That's 60,000 Megawatts an hour. Just to keep shapes bouncing around a screen. Just to put that in perspective, the largest wind turbines out there are rated at 10 MW. A large coal-fired plant generates about 300 MW. Even China's Three Gorges hydroelectric dam, which is so huge that filling its reservoir actually made the Earth wobble on its axis, is rated at 30,000 MW.” Although there is disagreement about the significance of the energy savings, the concept has value.

Emma Marris, a Washington correspondent for Nature wrote an article about carbon sequestration subtitled "Black is the New Green" in which she discusses the relatively simple yet effective approach of sequestering carbon by putting it into the ground. This would keep it out of the atmosphere and enrich the earth with charcoal fertilizer.

Tag lines like "Black is the New Green," help to raise awareness and lead to pragmatic changes in our business culture. As reported in Forbes "Green is certainly the new black for companies using and making computers...Now corporate technology managers--and so computer makers--are tallying up their performance per watt, or how much processing power a system can provide while consuming the least amount of power."

The power of "Black is the new Green" comes from leveraging Green’s broad-spectrum support. Something simple and small when replicated enough times, can be something big. This is an important message for those aspiring to a Greener world, and as we will discuss in even greater detail in forthcoming articles, there are implications for marketers and business owners.

For Green to be sustainable it must be woven into the fabric of our values and culture. It must touch upon every aspect of our daily lives. Two years ago the International Herald Tribune quoted Bono as saying "we have got to find ways of making our activism sexy, and fashion is it." A book by Tamsin Blanchard entitled "Green is the New Black," reifies Bono’s hypothesis. Subtitled "Changing the World with Style," Blanchard seems to be suggesting that in terms of its iconic status in fashion, Green has arrived. Lily Cole explains the book by saying “…ethics seems to have become the new fashion trend...These are important changes as we begin to recognize and appreciate the scale to which the small things we do produce consequences on a larger scale.”

Some people believe the earth's salvation will come from large scale technological innovation. They may be right. But while we wait for such miraculous innovations, we would do well to remember that the most sustainable solutions we have today are small gestures multiplied millions of times. "Black is the new Green" reveals the invaluable wisdom of thinking big by thinking small. It is also a testament to Green's ascendency to popular prominence. First Green was being compared to black as a cultural standard in fashion, now, only two years later, Green is the superordinate locus of secular values. Green has come to be the focal point of comparison, the cultural relative against which things are valued.

A 2006 ABC article asked "Will Environmentalism Wear Well as the Latest Fashion?" In 2008 we can safely say that Green is proving that it has the enduring elegance of a timeless classic.

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