Green Businesses May Need to Change their Colors

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Editor’s Note: Lyndon Rive is the co-founder and CEO of SolarCity, a national leader in solar power. This is the first in a series of posts from the CEOs of major solar companies.

Is it May already? Maybe it’s just me, but the media didn’t seem to make as big a deal over Earth Day as it has the last few years. I noticed that Vanity Fair didn’t do a “green issue” this year, and according to John McCaslin on Town Hall, Outside, Discover, Mother Jones, Newsweek and Time cut back on their Earth Day green issues too.

Treehugger reported that Vanity Fair is going to spread its environmental articles throughout the year, and this section of the magazine’s Web site seems to support that. But McCaslin calls it “green fatigue.” I think they’re both right.

Greenwashing is getting out of control. Eyes are glazing over, and I think it’s affecting how the media reports on “green” subjects. And I think a lot of that is the fault of “green” companies. “Green” is not a business model, and very few businesses or consumers see “green” as an exclusive reason to buy a product, particularly when they don’t know who or what to believe.

The solar industry has been around for decades, and yet we’re still at less than half of one percent adoption. As an industry, if we don’t create value for customers beyond being “the greenest home or business on the block,” then we’re not going to see the kind of mass adoption that can make a meaningful environmental impact. Solar energy can save people money AND promote a cleaner environment, and we need to tell that story more often.

Earth Day plays an important role in increasing environmental awareness, but what will really help the planet, are more green businesses willing to work to make green products more affordable and easier to use and understand. When that happens, we will be able to look forward to Earth Day as a celebration of what we’ve accomplished, and not a reminder of what we still need to do.

Image Credit: Solar City