It was only a matter of time before the battle of the sexes entered the realm of sustainability. After all, if there's anything worth arguing about -- couples will.
An article from Earth911.com asserts that women are more likely to go green than men. The author, Alison Neumer Lara, finds statistics that say women are more likely to recycle, drive slowly, and eat less meat.
Lara also asserts that women are more likely to make eco-purchases, and are more likely to buy green fashions -- which is where her (rather sexist) argument breaks down. Why? Because women are also far more likely to purchase anything.
Women and Shopping: A Darker Shade of Green
Research has shown that women make about 85% of all consumer purchases in the United States. They buy 66% of computers, 65% of new cars, 93% of over-the-counter drugs, 94% of home furnishings, and 92% of vacations.
The point is, buying any new consumer product -- even if it's "green" -- means that new products have to be designed, manufactured, shipped, marketed, stored and sold, all of which requires immense amounts of materials and energy, and sends more older products into the waste stream.
Buying a new set of eco-sensitive, all-natural bamboo bed linens? Good for you. That means somewhere in Asia a rain forest is being cut down to grow bamboo (which often requires fertilizers and pesticides). A factory then turns the bamboo into chemically dyed linens, ships them across the ocean, packages them in petroleum-based plastics, stores them in a big energy-inefficient warehouse and sells them to you.
Some might argue that women are shopping for other people, e.g., their husbands or kids. That's true to some degree, but only up to a point. Research has also shown that women are far more likely to make luxury brand purchases that are not for anyone but themselves. In fact, two-thirds of luxury brand purchases are made by women.
Ending the Green Battle of the Sexes
The sustainable thing to do, of course, is to resist buying new products, and instead keep existing products as long as possible. Using the example above, it would have been more sustainable to keep existing bed linens until they simply wear out, and buy eco-sensitive sheets only when it's really necessary.
When someone proves that women make fewer purchasing decisions than men, instead of more, then they certainly deserve to wear the green crown. But until that time, we're all in this together, men and women alike, because all of us have helped to make "consumer power" and the acquisition of material goods the yardstick by which we measure our self-worth and the worth of others.
Only by acting together, instead of creating artificial distinctions that place the blame elsewhere -- or celebrate one group of people at the expense of another -- will we make ours a greener planet. In this battle of the sexes, it's time to call a truce.