A Green (silver) lining?

The latter part of 2008 marked the beginning of the economic downturn. But was it also the dawn of something more positive? There’s growing evidence to suggest that just as the economy was cooling, demand for all things green-sustainable-and-local was heating up, taking a trend long in the making to a whole new level of success.

“Anecdotal” evidence of this trend here in the Delaware River Valley includes an increase in farmer’s markets, farm-to-table dinner events, food labels promoting qualities such as local, organic, hormone-free and pasture-raised, and greater availability of organic and local food at the supermarket . A “conversation meter,” if such a thing existed, would surely note a rise in the number of discussions about buying from local farmers or choosing organic.

And it’s not all about food. Locals now have more opportunities to get their hair colored organically, buy sustainable paint and flooring or purchase fair trade gifts — all while supporting businesses in the river valley. “Going Green” signs are popping up at farms and nurseries that have “planted” sizeable solar panel installations. And several towns have undertaken efforts to support local business, from Doylestown’s “support your local” signage to Lambertville and New Hope’s Friday night fireworks events.

Does all of this really add up to a green trend? There may never be complete agreement, but a few national trend watchers would apparently answer “yes.”

— An October 2009 www.motherearthnews.com article (“Top Green Consumer Trends for 2009”) reported how a PR agency’s fall 2008 projections about consumer behavior were panning out. According to the article, green remodelling, organic food, fair trade and the “reduce” part of reduce-reuse-reycle all ticked up despite or perhaps because of the recession.

— In 2010, the U.S. organic industry grew about 8% to more than $28.6 billion, according to the Organic Marketing Alliance, as reported in a January 2011 article on www.organic-market.info.

–Renewable sources delivered as much energy as nuclear power in the U.S. in 2010, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s March 2011 Monthly Energy Review, as reported at www.thinkprogress.org.

There’s plenty more of this. And, sure, there’s always going to be disagreement about statistics and trends. But if you’re simply observing what’s going on close to home, it’s not difficult to notice that enthusiasm for green-sustainable-and-local stands out in this gloomy economy like a burst of sunlight through the fog.