Do the 2010s Truly Qualify as The Green Decade?
The 1980s were known as The Greed Decade. As stock and bond markets soared and deregulation was the goal in Washington, Americans became myopically focused on the vast wealth that seemed up for grabs.
Houses got bigger, cars got more luxurious, and social status became more than ever defined by material possessions. We became obsessed with the hottest gadgets, as smartphones and tablets became ubiquitous. Students, who are currently rolling in billions of dollars of debt, still own multiple computers, laptops, and entertainment electronics. Because of this excess in consumerism, many of us recall this decade with embarrassment for more than just the big hair and cheesy glam rock.
Fortunately, we seem to have become more selfless and civic-minded as a society in the intervening decades. The negative effects of income inequality are becoming more apparent, and egalitarianism is back in vogue. Social media is increasing awareness, as people post calls to action and crowdsourced fundraiser websites to earn money for organizations in need. Ignorance to the large disparity in wealth is hard to come by, when we’re inundated with information on TV and through social media. We’re also becoming more in tune with an even larger looming issue: the sustainability of the planet we call home. Population growth, along with the decrease in available jobs begs questions like: How can employers provide for everyone? How can we responsibly use our resources?
Hotter summers, more frequent cataclysmic weather events, and melting ice caps have drawn our attention to that fact that we haven’t been as considerate of the environment as we should have been. In our quest for excess, we have burned fossil fuels and emitted significant amounts of carbon into the air. Additionally, we are subjecting Chinese factory workers such as the toxins of benzene and n-hexane, which have been linked to leukemia.
The digital era may be responsible for increasing our awareness of these issues, allowing response time to speed up for consumer activists. It has become fashionable to be nice to the environment and to embrace a “green” mindset. The generation that’s coming of age in the present decade is focused on a type of “green” that has nothing to do with what’s in their wallet. The shift toward environmental sensitivity might be enough for the 2010s to be labeled in the history books as “The Green Decade.”
In the 1980s, it was all about size, size, size. Square footage was everything when it came to new homes. In the 2010s, even some of the wealthy folks are eschewing monstrous residences for smaller ones that are more space-efficient as well as energy-efficient. Rather than taking an individualist approach to purchasing property, some people are moving forward with real estate decisions that are community and environmentally sound.
Drive through a high-end neighborhood in your town and you’re liable to see solar panels and greenhouses among the homes there. Inside, you’ll find energy-efficient appliances. These signs of environmental consciousness are becoming status symbols as much as having a BMW in your driveway was in the 1980s. Some of these purchases won’t necessarily be driven by consumer conscience – some people are swayed by “green” logos in the same exact way they’re swayed by wallets, hats, or purses with high end logos. But brand recognition and virality can wind up working in the favor of environmentalism, once it becomes a fad. Ultimately, it’s the consumer’s responsibility to do the legwork and learn whether or not their household brands are actually making a difference.
Once again, size was what mattered in the 1980s and 1990s. This was when SUVs hit the market, and proceeded to get bigger and bigger. Seemingly overnight, we woke up and realized it was pointless to burn so much fuel for the dubious distinction of taking up the most space on the highway. This became painfully clear to those who have suffered peak gas prices.
While the Ford Excursion and the Lincoln Navigator may have been cool cars to have 15 years ago, today it’s the Toyota Prius, the Chevy Volt, and the Nissan Leaf … vehicles that run some or all of the time on no gasoline at all. The continued buzz surrounding current and upcoming electronic car offerings from Tesla also show a growing demand for a world that isn’t so reliant on gasoline.
Commitment to clean air
While haze, smog, and huge smokestacks dominated the most economically stable cities of decades past, today the companies that drive our economic engine, such as Microsoft and Google, make being green a linchpin of their mission statement.
Among individuals, cigarette smoking indoors — and even outdoors — has become much more taboo for this same reason. Quite a few smokers are switching to those portable vaporizers and electronic cigarettes to vape instead of the air-polluting smoke that emanates from tobacco-based cigarettes. (Check out http://www.davincivaporizer.
Three decades ago, the only green most of us cared about was how much was in our bank account and billfold. Today, we understand the value of another green: the kind we can pass on to our children as a much more cherished inheritance than money.