To “go green” means to make conscious choices that are better for the earth. These daily decisions can include recycling, buying organic foods, supporting local farms, using energy-efficient appliances, repurposing materials, composting, avoiding toxic chemicals, walking or biking instead of driving, and purchasing reusable products instead of disposable ones. On a larger scale, the political movement focuses on conserving and preserving wildlife, vegetation, and natural resources.
While green ideals and politics date back to the 19th century in response to the Industrial Revolution, the term itself is more recent. Its first widespread use was during the 1970s in the names of political organizations and actions across the world, and therefore was capitalized.
In Australia, there were the Green Bans, union strikes against project development in order to protect land and historical sites. The name was created by activist Jack Mundey as a spinoff of the union term black bans (strikes against providing or buying goods) and is credited with influencing others to use the color to represent environmental causes.
One of those people was Petra Kelly, a German politician who helped found the Green Party in her country. It became the first to achieve worldwide success and recognition. However, it embraced more than just environmental issues. The ideology also included nonviolence, social injustice, and international peace. Other similar parties were established throughout Europe, and those that followed the ideology kept the capitalized name.
In the U.S., the prominent figure was Rachel Carson, a scientist who wrote the book Silent Spring in 1962 to reveal the harmful effects of chemicals on nature, particularly pesticides on birds. The book had a powerful impact on the ecological movement of the 60s and 70s, which resulted in the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the founding of the U.S. Green Party in 1984.
Over time, the word green became more generalized to mean anything relating to the environment, and it lost the capitalization to distinguish between political organizations and generic environmental views. It is easy to understand why it was chosen: it is the color of life in nature, connotes vitality and beauty, and serves as a constant reminder of the earth. Paired with go, it is a call to action to care for the planet in which we live.
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