Is your green blog bad for the planet?

Warning: snarkiness ahead.

My basic line is that there are lots of ways to be green — that is, to consciously try to reduce your impact on the planet, use resources more wisely, think about the effects of your actions, or care about the earth and its future. I respect that some people choose very different paths than I do in promoting sustainability, and I have tons of respect for the people who get out there more than I do and canvass, call, write, agitate, and activate (or whatever the verb is for what activists do). Plenty of people have smaller footprints than I do, try harder, and do more. Plenty don’t, are but are working hard to get there.

I really try to be fair, patient, and tolerant, but I fail more often than I let on. And although I don’t rant much on here, I have to say that certain types of ‘green’ behavior or ‘green’ blogs drive me quietly but absolutely crazy. (Note the Quotes of Scorn.) Regular programming will continue after I’ve gotten the snark out of my system.

Let’s talk about green blogs. I have one. If you’re reading this, you might have one, too. Everything we do has an impact, including blogging, and including green blogging. Does the amount of planet-saving mojo we create balance out the impact? Or are our green blogs quietly wrecking the planet along with everything else we do as first world citizens? 

Here, for your pleasure and enlightenment, is a totally unscientific and unapologetically snarky quiz to find out what kind of impact your green blog has on the earth. 

1. How much time do you spend on your blog, promoting your blog, or schmoozing with other bloggers so they’ll become your faithful readers?
a) 0-2 hours a week. I blog when I remember to.
b) 2-5 hours a week. I put some time and effort into promoting my blog.
c) 5-10 hours a week. I might be slightly obsessed in getting my page rank up.
d) 10+ hours a week. Whatever it takes to get companies to contact me for reviews.

2. Where does the electricity that powers your computer come from?
a) 100% renewable energy. I live off the grid and rigged my laptop to run on solar panels.
b) 50-99% renewable energy. I tried hooking my computer to a turbine, but it didn’t work out.
c) Less than 50% renewable energy (but my energy provider gets a little juice from solar or wind).
d) I have no idea, and don’t really care.

3. How many product reviews do you do each month?
a) 0-1. But mostly 0.
b) 2-3 on an average month (less than 1 per week).
c) 4-5 (at least 1 per week).
d) 5+ or as many as I’m given the opportunity to do. I heart stuff!

4. How many of them are for products you genuinely need and can’t find a local, lower impact solution for?
a) All of them (or n/a, since I don’t do any product reviews).
b) Most of them, with the occasional fun, green-ish one thrown in.
c) A few. But I’d review an eco-cupcake holder made from recycled plastic if I were given the chance.
d) I’ve never thought about the products I review that way.

5. Would you get green blogger business cards and/or stationery?
a) No way. Think about all the dead trees that went into those things.
b) They’re cute, but I don’t think they’re necessary.
c) I have the sweetest blogger cards printed in soy ink on 100% recycled paper.
d) Have you seen my laminated glitter business cards?

6) How do you feel about green blogger conventions?
a) The whole phrase is an oxymoron. Flying out to promote my blog and have ‘green’ products sold to me is not low impact.
b) I wouldn’t go to one unless it were in my town or within a short drive.
c) They’re OK. I picked up some great swag at the last one.
d) If a company sponsors me to go, I’m there. If it has green in the title, it must be eco-friendly, right?

Mostly As: you officially have a low impact green blog. You might also be just a little on the self-righteous and curmudgeonly side. Oh well — sustainability first!

Mostly Bs: your blog is pretty low impact, although you don’t have a do-or-die approach when it comes to reducing your footprint. Depending on how many people read your blog and take something away from it, it’s possible that the beneficial impact of your blog outweighs its use of resources.

Mostly Cs: You’re heading into the territory of the quotation marks, as in the ‘green’ blogger. You may have other motives for blogging, such as generating income or getting cool free stuff. You still think you can achieve greenness through buying stuff.

Mostly Ds: You think green is a nice color. But your blog is not low impact by any stretch of the imagination.

How’d you do? I’m mostly As and Bs with the occasional C. (By the way, if you’re not sure what percentage of your power comes from renewable energy, it’s easy to find out through a quick web search. My provider gets about 30% from renewable sources.)

It’s completely impossible to quantify how much good my blog does in educating or reaching out, but it is easy to see what kind of resources go into it. Is it worth it? I have no idea. But I do think that a green revolution starts with consciousness, conversation, and real, meaningful change, and our blogs are one place to begin.

Do you think about the impact of your green blog? What are some ways to improve it?


36 responses to this post.

  1. Ha! Thank you for turning self-righteous ‘greenness’ on it’s head! And aside from all of the electricity used to power our individual PC’s, an even greater amount is spent keeping all of those servers running in perfectly climate controlled rooms, not to mention the e-waste generated each time a router or hard drive needs to be replaced (says the girl about to yank out a dead video card and upgrade to a new groovy one with an HDMI output.)

    I think I read somewhere that even a homeless bum living in the US has a bigger carbon footprint than your average Chinese or Indian citizen, simply because of their portion of our national “shared resources.”

    Anyhow, I guess the moral of the story is that pretty much everything we do has an impact, and smugness is not really terribly helpful. :~)


    • Hi Cat!

      Good point about the servers. I’m all for being realistic, and you’re right — blogging is a first world luxury that is part of our already considerable footprint. No point in being sanctimonious about it. I have to say that I do have a genuine problem with blogs that are all about product promotion, because it is absolutely counter to the idea of lower impact.


  2. I think you’re being a positive antagonist (is there such a thing?) with this post. I am all A’s. (We’re not off the grid, but participate in a program through our energy company that allows us to pay a small premium each month to draw our power from 100% renewable sources.)

    As time passes, the more I find myself putting more space between my online and offline activities. If I were online all the time (blogging, promoting, whatever) I would feel as though I was being fake — a poser if you will — and doing those who do take the time to read my writing an absolute disservice. I must live as honestly and openly as possible to be true to myself and others; to find that inspiration in every day experiences in which to write about and share.

    I do find it comical those “green” blogs that promote green products and the like. Buying stuff that might be deemed unnecessary — even if it is “green” — is still a drain on our finite resources. To each their own.

    Hope all is well and that you have more pottery to show in the near future! Be well!


    • Hi Bill,

      Kevin saw the title of this post and accused me of rabble rousing. 🙂 So, yes, it is a deliberately provocative post. I think it’s great that you’re spending more time doing stuff in your community and less online. I wouldn’t be surprised if you influence more people in person and talk to more people who don’t necessarily already agree with you. I’m happy whenever there’s a new post from you.

      I think there’s an essential disconnect between the mainstream conception of green (buying different things) and how we see it (reducing our total impact), and that’s what drives those green product review blogs. If blogging leads to a net increase in resources used, can it really be considered green?


  3. I like what Bill said: “To each their own”. Everyone has their reasons for doing what they do and I think it’s hard to force bloggers into any one of your categories. My blog is my business-my job. That being said, I do need to make money in order to continue sharing my ‘green’ passion. Part of my philosophy is to provide my readers with a service. That service might include product review, book reviews and posts sharing green issues and information. It is up to the reader to use that information in any way they see fit. They don’t have to buy a product or a book that I suggest. I think what eco cat lady said is also important- everything we do has an impact. Hopefully having that awareness helps us green bloggers make well informed decisions.


    • Hi Lori,

      My blog is my hobby, and I’ve made a deliberate decision to keep money out of it for idiotically idealistic reasons. I’m just not sure how I could avoid hypocrisy if I wrote about reducing unnecessary consumption if I were sponsored by companies that sell things I consider more or less unnecessary. I also don’t want my words to be in any way influenced by money, and towards that end, I’m prepared to subsidize my green blog hobby with my day job.

      I can see why your blog would require a very different strategy, and I have no inherent objection to promotion or blogger conventions, but I can’t understand how a green blogger could fly to a green blogger convention and not see an essential conflict of interest between environmental ideals and self promotion. And again, being idiotically idealistic, I’m critical of choosing the latter when the impact is so high. From the perspective of sustainability, I don’t think it’s justifiable, and I don’t think it’s part of the solution.

      I’m not against sharing the green-ish products I really love and use. I’m happy to spread the word about, say, Envirosax and Mimi’s Dreams, because they’ve helped wean me off disposable products and have quality, long-lasting goods that support small businesses. I do think it’s a problem when a green blog becomes all about indiscriminately promoting products.


  4. I am reading a book called “How bad are Bananas?” which is an attempt to put a carbon foot on everything from a cup of tea, to sending an email to eating a hamburger to swimming in a pool. Apparently, bananas are not so bad in the scheme of things. Very interesting stuff, and I never really thought about the impact a single email would have on the world. But your post comes back to that same point!

    I am mostly As except for the energy bit – where I live there are not many renewable sources, but hopefully that will change soon.

    I don’t get the green blogs that are 100% product promotions either. A few well thought out ones are okay I think. But I much prefer the exchange of good ideas and discourse to “let’s go buy stuff we don’t need” especially since the desire to do the latter is what led us to this predicament in the first place…


    • Hi Sherry,

      I’ve seen that book and been curious. I’m guilty of occasionally ragging on Kevin for his love of bananas, but maybe I should be examining my email outbox instead. 🙂 Or my chocolate stash. Eep. Fact is, everything we do has an impact, and I think it’s worth considering blogging in that light.

      Product reviews and giveaways are fun because free stuff is fun, but if you don’t need it, how green is it really?


    • OK… I’ve gotta check out that book! Perhaps it will help me to put some of my banana guilt into perspective. I’ve recently become a banana hound because I’m having a bunch of dental work done so anything hard is impossible to eat, and anything particularly acidic hurts like crazy. That leaves bananas as one of the few fruits that I can eat right about now. Plus, I’m saving all of the peels to make a mulch that’s supposed to ward off aphids in my broccoli! (She says, further justifying her banana gluttony…)


  5. Great post! We seem to talk about going “Green” a lot but never really talk about our own actions. We must take steps now to preserve our environment for future generations. Here at Parisleaf we’re an environmentally friendly web and print company. For every order we receive we plant 10 trees to offset the environmental impact of the job. Head on over to to see what we’re all about. We’ll keep checking back for updates! Keep up the great work on the blog!


  6. Hahaha, awesome post, Jennifer! If you’ll permit me a moment of self-righteousness, I’d like to point out that one of the reasons I stopped blogging was to have more time to head out into the world and get stuff done, instead of sitting in front of my computer and having no way of knowing whether I was having a measurable impact on the environmental movement.

    That said, it’s important for bloggers to keep blogging! I’ve learned so much from following about a dozen blogs over the past year and a half. I know I’m not the only one.


    • Thanks, Andrea! There really is no substitute for getting out there and being the change you want to see. 🙂 I hope you’ll keep me posted about your new adventures in the real world! I know I spend too much time online, so last week, I dragged myself out of the house on a rainy Friday evening to go to my first California Native Plant Society meeting. It was fun to meet plant geeks and fellow environmentally concerned people in the Bay Area. I hope this will be the first of several ways in which I try to get more involved in my local environmental movement.

      I’m not going to stop blogging…actually, I have another obnoxious post coming up on all the ethical and environmental problems with chocolate. Stay tuned! 🙂


  7. What a thought provoking post. Having a blog myself it really made me think. I have worked on being green with turning off appliances and things but how to blog without a computer would be hard.


    • Hi Prairieecothrifter,

      I guess some people blog on their phones, although I’m not sure how much lower impact that would be. Blogging is essentially another luxury of living in a developed country. I doubt it adds much to our impact, but it probably wouldn’t be accurate to say that I’m greener just because I have a green blog.

      I’m not always good about remembering to turn off the router at night. Thanks for the reminder!


  8. I’m back again! I have only been to one blogging conference-BlogHer11 in San Diego. Yes, I did fly there and the conference was filled with swag and brand representation. What I took away from the conference had little to do with swag or brands-I met a few wonderful bloggers, green and not-so-green that are incredible people making a difference in the world. This job of blogging can be very isolating and lonely and a blog conference is a great way to network and form community-as I have done with you! While I do understand your point concerning the high impact of the conference, I found many aspects of it to be inspirational and very worthwhile. I’m planning to go to NYC this summer for BlogHer12. I can take the train this time! Want to join 🙂


    • Hi Lori,

      I don’t have a problem with blogger conventions; I have a problem with ‘green’ blogger conventions, because that just seems like a total contradiction to me. I doubt I will ever attend a convention — not necessarily because of the impact, but because I’m not sociable and would be miserable at one of those things. It’s interesting that you say blogging is isolating, because a good deal of my social interaction actually occurs through my blog!

      Love the train. Have fun at BlogHer.


  9. Oh my … you do get to the heart of it!! And I thank you for that … it makes me think about my actions. For the most part, I am in the As category but I will say that my one bad (real bad) action is that I am almost constantly online. I promote, promote, promote … yes, I’d love it if reputable people wanted to sponsor my blog but that’s not why I promote … I do so because I really want to get a message out to people. That’s always been my #1 motivation. I do struggle with the balance of trying to reach out and using energy. And on any given day, my opinion changes on it. Ugh!


    • Hi Small Footprints,

      I’m online a lot, too. It’s not the worst of eco-sins by a long shot, but it does make me wonder if the positive impact I have is really balancing out the energy I’m using. Unfortunately, there’s no real way to quantify it. I see most of my activities as a compromise — between considering the planet, my needs, and my wants. Blogging definitely falls into the optional category. I struggle with knowing that talking to people in my community is a more powerful way to effect change, and being such a total introvert that even the thought of getting out there and talking to people makes me shrink.


      • Posted by Erin on 02/04/2012 at 20:27

        The hammer to the nail is compromise for sure! There is no perfect solution and you can’t be 100% green and still reach the masses. Most people get their information online and as one commenter said:it’s important for bloggers to keep blogging!


  10. I am closer to B than A. I accept some products for review, but usually only if I specifically request the items from the companies, versus them soliciting me, and I only choose products that I actually think have a positive environmental impact.

    My goal with my green blog is to persuade a lot of people to take little steps than to convince one or two people to go “off the grid”, so I use an 80/20 approach instead of 100%.But I absolutely abhor the whole “greenwashing” stuff. You’re either green or you’re not. Don’t try to fool me! (Like the whole new “good for the environment plastic bottles” really get me fired up!)


    • Hi Kim,

      I’m with you on the 80/20 approach. I have yet to get rid of my last roll of [recycled, non bleached] paper towels (the cat throws up just often enough to warrant having one on hand), still have a car, can’t stand the thought of giving up my energy intensive but dearly loved hobby.

      Not sure I completely agree with the idea that you’re either green or not, though. I think it’s a spectrum: recycling is better than throwing away, but reusing or refusing are still far better. I don’t like the way green is sold as making a set of different buying decisions (instead of making reducing/reusing a priority), but I think you have to start somewhere…and we’re all so mired in this society of consumption that it would probably be fair to say that none of us is really low impact.


      • Posted by Erin on 02/04/2012 at 20:34

        I completely agree with the “have to start somewhere” mentality! I’ve met a few people who are black and white on the subject and it’s sometimes frustrating to agree philosophically, but promote compromise as an action when I talk with them. I know that recycling is only one small step that isn’t going to save the planet in the long wrong, but optimism gets more followers than negativity in my opinion. So I try to stay positive and promote change and not ‘green’ perfection.


  11. Hi from Small Footprint’s Meet & Greet. I’m pretty new to blogging, so yes, I spend a bit of time on it, learning the ropes and trying to get posts right. For the rest, I’m pretty much a’s. My sense is that green product promotion blogs are like the rest of green product promotion which is now part of the larger commercial scheme. We have a stronger reaction to greenwashing on blogs, perhaps because blogs are supposed to be more intimate, and more trust-based than the rest of the corporate arsenal of weapons of mass distraction. To the blogger, it’s a business decision, so someone like me who has zero business sense should live and let live.


    • Hi CelloMom!

      Thanks for hopping over to my blog! I’ll check out yours in a minute. I think the whole idea of being able to shop green is problematic. Unless you need it and/or it considerably reduces how much you consume, is it really that green? Somehow, the idea of reducing has been lost in a lot of ‘green’ marketing — no doubt because marketing stuff just isn’t that compatible with encouraging people to consume less.


      • Your finger really has a way of homing in on the sore spot, doesn’t it? 🙂
        I get you, about “green marketing” being an oxymoron. Speaking entirely for myself, perhaps the reason why I’m a’s on your survey is that there is no way in the world anyone would sponsor a blogger who is constantly exhorting to buy less, buy smaller, buy more durable: someone who puts the Refuse, Reduce _way_ before the Reuse, Recycle.


        • Hi CelloMom,

          Your comment made me laugh. The only reason I get away with it is that many of these posts are about me, poking my finger on a sore spot of my own. (And when it comes to being green, trust me, I have many and find new ones all the time.) I really want to keep my blog about ideas, not stuff, but you’re right — talking about consuming smarter and less doesn’t inspire love from companies with stuff to sell. It seems like we’re on the same page. I’ll have to bookmark your blog. 🙂


  12. Yo, Jennifer…I heard you ranting all the way from NYC! Man. If I wan’t committing eco-sin by not blogging, I would have never met you. And what fun life would be then, huh?

    Seriously, without sounding defensive, I never thought about making money with my blog. Then, one post went stupid viral. And then I thought, I might as well try to pay my hosting fee with the traffic I was getting. So I installed the Amazon widget and I filled it with green products that readers can buy, especially since the post that went viral was about “7 foods that even experts won’t eat.” and I wanted to recommend products that readers should replace them with.

    So while I am not making my son’s college tuition from it, I am paying for the hosting fee for the month so I can continue to blog. And since I don’t have a day job, other than being a full time mom and a wife, a few pennies that I don’t have to pay out of my pocket work for me.

    And product reviews? I only review products that I want to recommend my readers to switch to instead of crap that they are using now, like shampoo bar instead of shampoo in a plastic bottle. And since I do occasional reviews and giveaways, I don’t feel guilty about it.

    The bottom line is, like what many commenters said here, it’s what the readers take away from your blog. There are many shades of greenies, bloggers and readers. I unsubscribed from many blogs that ‘talked’ about being green but did too many “green” product reviews. I also unsubscribed from blogs that sounded too preachy and offensive. There are many different thoughts of school when it comes to blogging. Yes, some are greener than others. But we have to believe what we are doing it making a difference, regardless of the different shades of green.

    Otherwise, how would I get invited to talk at Martha Stewart’s “Dreamers into Doers” Annual Conference and hold a workshop to 80 lucky entrepreneurs about greening their businesses???

    Oh, and btw…
    1) b., 2) c, 3)a, 4)a, 5)a, 6)a



    • Hey Karen!

      Hah, I didn’t mean to rant so loudly. 😛 I don’t have a problem with the kind of occasional product promotion your blog hosts. I’ve been the happy recipient of one of your giveaways. (And if your blog annoyed me, there’s zero chance I would visit it frequently.) I just wonder if we really consider the net impact of our so-called green blogs, and for the blogs that spend all their time promoting stuff, I would say the answer is no.

      Congrats on your upcoming workshop! Get out there and inspire people to change!


      • I’m glad you rant loudly. That’s what we love about you!! Keep doing what you are doing. It only makes life better, for all of us. Oh, and the planet thanks you too.

        Now, where is that ear plug I had yesterday???


  13. Sorry the comment was too long. 😉


  14. Posted by Erin on 02/04/2012 at 21:03

    Thought provoking post: love it! This is the sort of post I wish more people wrote. The blog sphere is a most interesting platform of business mostly because of the different levels a blog can take (from hobby to career).

    A different view about blogs and websites for that matter is the amount and easy of information sharing. It is one of the best sources for green information out there compared to paper handouts and pamphlets which has it’s own environmental impact. Granted, the greenest is word of mouth, but how often do we remember the details of green practices (from recipes to make your own cleaning supplies to natural/green companies that don’t use nasty chemicals in shampoo) from word of mouth alone? I know for me, having a ‘file’ be it in paper form or online is the only way I will remember and actually implement greener options.

    It’s a personal decision on the level of ‘green’ a blog truly is, but still a question each author needs to ask themselves.

    A fabulous and important point!


    • Hi Erin,

      Thanks for your thoughts! I do think green blogs are a great resource for how to information, and my most popular posts are (perhaps a little ironically, since my blog is mostly opinion) the two DIY skincare ones. I’ve also found lots of good tips and stuff to think about in the green blogverse. One big problem is that almost everything in our lives as first world citizens is unsustainable so that the level of change blogs inspire is probably still quite small in comparison to our total impact. Obviously we do need to start somewhere, but I’m often frustrated with the disparity between how much I care about the fate of this planet and how mired I am in a culture in which very little is sustainable.

      Unlike you, I don’t file ideas away…I’m just obsessive enough that if something catches my interest, I go home and try it right away! I think a more methodical approach would have definite benefits, though. 🙂


  15. There’s an interesting tone to this post, almost pointing the figure at any type of reader and saying ‘bad, bad!’ rather than bringing up the question in a way that would encourage greener habits. But neither here nor there, as my gram would say.

    I began blogging when my father was dying, and I needed an outlet. With it I found an amazing community of people I would have never met. Eventually I began to focus my writing on documenting my own story of how I try to live sustainably, what I’ve learned, ideas about simplicity, sharing some frustrations, and just being myself. It’s been a beautiful thing making friends all over the world through writing.

    The blogs I have learned from are the ones that are most honest about how they live, how they’ve made adjustments, what their struggles have been, their successes, and sharing of information/resources/websites. Early on, I discovered Green as a Thistle and her Greenlist ( which inspired me on several areas I hadn’t yet thought about, as well as to document what I’m doing and how I’ve evolved. In addition, I adore Ashley English’s blog,, and FiveSeed,, where she is beautifully honest about what is meaningful to her, her experiences and lessons, and so welcoming to the blog community.

    Re: green computing – I would stress more ensuring that computers & related devices are a) energy star compliant, b) chargers are unplugged, c) laptops rather than desktops for naturally greater efficiency, d) and made by the most environmentally responsible manufacturers. Remember – like one person said, it’s their job. And know what that means? There’s a good chance they’re not wasting gasoline in a bus or car getting to work. The benefit of technology is that it can allow us to be MORE environmentally sensitive, learning about ways of doing things that we might have never known about.

    As long as people are trying to make changes that are more respectful of the planet, I think us all focusing on being encouraging and educating rather than negative will go a long way in affecting change 🙂


    • Hey EcoGrrl,

      This post was written in a fit of pique about ‘green’ blogger conventions and is accordingly filed under ‘rants.’ I’m very concerned about the ways that ‘green’ is used as an excuse to consume more rather than less, and the further away ‘green’ gets about being more responsible and conscious of our impact on the planet, the more it pisses me off. If you read through my other posts, I think you’ll find that I am generally less judgmental and quite open to the idea that other people’s green journeys may look very different from mine. I’m also not excusing myself from the impact of my green blog or condoning either self righteousness or obliviousness. I write this blog in part to ask people (and myself) to think about their impact in different ways because I believe that consciousness is key to living more sustainably. And I do think that examining our own behaviors critically is more effective than being patted on the back and told that we’re saving the planet by, say, switching to LED lightbulbs or using reusable bags. Those steps are fine to start, but we can’t stop there.

      Technology is a very mixed bag for me in terms of sustainability. I don’t know if you caught a recent article on WSJ about how greater efficiency and technological advance have actually encouraged us to consume more, often in terms we think are greener. It’s a good read: . If green blogging helps mitigate some of my impact by providing inspiration, support, and ideas…I dunno, I probably would have still had a lower impact 50 years ago before computers were standard. But we can’t go backwards.

      I haven’t heard of any of the blogs you mentioned, but I’ll go check them out. Thanks!


  16. I seriously love your site.. Excellent colors & theme. Did
    you create this amazing site yourself? Please reply back as
    I’m wanting to create my own personal site and want to find out where you got this from or exactly what the theme is called. Thank you!


  17. When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get three e-mails with the same comment.
    Is there any way you can remove people from
    that service? Thanks a lot!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: