May 2, 2013

Green Housewives: Superficially Sustainable. ~ Ruth Barreto

I assume Clorox’s Green Housewives marketing campaign is meant to be funny and clever. But, really?




Maybe I just don’t get it. Maybe a clumsy satire that mocks your own market is the way to go. It seems too easy to pick on Clorox and its bumbling attempt to rally customers around adolescent memories of hating on the perfect girls. Could they be on to something?

Can you sell more eco-branded product by sneering at green goals? Clorox presents a caricature of the shrill, so-called extremist green housewife: rich, ridiculous, obsessive, and perfect. Apparently, she makes others feel inadequate because she insists on “organic, hand-loomed, hemp underwear” and knows “how to pronounce ‘quinoa’.”

And I suppose this is the strategy—to reassure customers that they really can continue to ignore that nagging feeling about impending environmental doom, that buying the right household cleaner is activism enough.

Reassuring people is a fine thing to do. Fear is certainly motivating. But it is also paralyzing.

Yet there is a deeper issue underneath this whole question of strategy. The problem is not extremist, alienating ideologies. The problem is not that the bar is set too high, but rather woefully low. The modest calls for recycling, using CFL light bulbs, composting, driving hybrids, and the like that scandalize Clorox’s marketing team and their facebook followers are themselves puny and pathetically superficial.

The truth is that most calls for “sustainability” are only about sustaining the decadence of consumerism.

Virtually no one in the green space is calling for anything approaching radical change. By that I mean deep shifts in human consciousness—in the way that we relate to the more-than-human world, in the way that we inhabit our bodies, in our spirituality and the core layers of our culture. Because at the end of the day, what is required of us is not to make appropriately-branded purchases, reassuring as that may be, but to shift our conception and experience of reality.

Does this frighten you, or excite you? Perhaps both. We are at the edge of something. And the question is, as always, how will we respond?

Superficial sustainability is by definition, more of the same. This is not an option.

How do you change reality? Start where we humans have always begun: with consciousness and cosmology. This is a spiritual challenge, if there ever was one, which is simply to say it is about the deepest meaning of the world and our place in it. Until we understand this, we will sustain and soothe ourselves with marketing.


Ruth Barreto spent many years being right about things. She did this initially through an upbringing of rigid Churchianity, and later as an anxiety-ridden professional environmentalist. It didn’t last. Life graced her with doubt and uncertainty and led her into the necessity of unknowing. The world revealed its extravagant textures, colors, complexity, and Soul. Ruth is grateful for the many teachers who have assisted her, but most of all to this green leafy planet and the perfection of its wholeness. These days she spends her time gardening, making soap and preserves, rambling in open space with her dogs, and trying to be a conscious, caring earthling. She blogs about ecospirituality at inscendence.com.


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Assistant Ed. Lacy Rae Ramunno/Ed: Bryonie Wise

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