'Anything's a good start'

Even if you're not a Lohasian, you can still care.

Published April 22, 2007

Green is the new black.

Fashion terms aside, there are so many ways to be green, it's hard to choose. The enormity of the globe's environmental ills makes it tough to imagine that one person's actions could make a dent.

Though she shares her birthday with Earth Day today, Lorraine Margeson wasn't an environmental activist until she bought her home seven years ago.

After thousands of dollars worth of imported landscaping withered and died, she went native.

"We got bought," Margeson said of herself and her husband, Don, who cleared invasive species, planted indigenous plants and were soon enjoying vibrant flora and visiting wildlife, especially birds. "We started loving living like this and it bought us into being green."

Margeson, one of the more active and outspoken "greens" in the area, knows she could do more. There are lots of shades of green, she said, and it's hard to know where to stop. Or start.

"Anything's a good start," Margeson said.

There are plenty of tips on how to be green: paper, not plastic; recycling; buying a hybrid car; using compact fluorescents instead of regular light bulbs. And on and on. But specific actions aren't as important as the thinking that guides them, some say.

"Sustainability is an important part of all of this," said Linda Taylor, who runs It's Our Nature and sells her organic clothing at the Saturday Morning Market and other fairs. "The green thing is thinking through how something is made."

Taylor sells only fair-trade merchandise, which would seem to have nothing to do with being green. But fair trade means foreign workers were paid appropriately for their labors, she said, meaning they then have the wherewithal to be responsible environmental actors themselves. Such consideration of repercussions are where green gets deep.

A whole new branch of psychology, ecopsychology, studies the phenomenon of humans coming to grips with industrial-era lifestyles that were self-defeating.

Green motivation is also as much commercial as altruistic. LOHAS, or lifestyles of health and sustainability, is a market segment that is 50-million strong that is defining green behaviors with its $228-million-a-year buying power.

Sometimes also known as Cultural Creatives, Lohasians are voting with their wallets in categories like green building and industrial goods, alternative transportation, health and wellness solutions, natural and organic nutritional products, spiritual products, ecotourism and travel, and renewable energy. Composed mainly of baby boomers, this market's greening tastes are driving permanent change toward a holistic world view.

Erika Morgan has been working in renewable energy since 1975 and is senior vice president for communications with CitizenRE, a Delaware company that aims to install photovoltaic solar panels on hundreds of thousands of roofs around the country. She has 1,600 Floridians ready to go, one of her larger markets, and she says it's inspiring to see such active greening.

"We can save this planet, but it will take a combination of will and technology," she said. "The technology is ready."

As a product of the slippery green slope, Margeson is eager for others to step up to the plate. She knows that once they start, they'll keep going and add another convert.

Paul Swider can be reached at 892-2271 or pswider@sptimes.com or by participating in itsyourtimes.com.