Blue Iris, Better than Green

by Heather Rae

Fashion faddies may take note of Pantone’s color of the year, Blue Iris (No. 18-3943). I’ll be using it in my new logo not because it’s hip, but because I admire its qualities. Pantone’s Leatrice Eiseman stated, “Blue Iris brings together the dependable aspects of blue, underscored by a strong, soul-searching purple cast. Emotionally, it is anchoring and meditative with a touch of magic.” Blue Iris is “supposed to answer several needs, hopes, desires, that kind of thing.”

Tongue out of cheek, I had a hope and desire that “green” would meet the needs of American consumerism during this holiday season. Sadly, green suffers from a lack of the strong, meditative, soul-searching qualities of Blue Iris. Emotionally, green might as well be red, flagging at my Taurian nature. I see green marketing and snort like a bull. It’s just not as dependable and true as blue.

Plunked on a couch in a spacious, well-appointed guest room at the Lenox Hotel in Back Bay Boston, I’m meditating on the meaning of green. (A night at this beautiful, accommodating hotel is a Christmas gift from Dave, my husband of three weeks.) The room commands a roof-line view of the urban malls of Copley Plaza and a peek on to Newbury Street. The Gideon bible rests in a drawer by the luxurious bed but two other books, laminated with a note (“Please do not remove this book from your room so that future guests may also enjoy it. If you are interested in purchasing a signed copy, please contact the Front Desk. Thank you.”) hold court on the writing desk. They are “The Bottom Line of Green is Black, Strategies for Creating Profitable and Environmentally Sound Businesses” (copyright 1993) by Tedd Saunders and “The Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices, Practical Advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists” (copyright 1999) by Brower and Leon.

The ubiquitous, and somewhat outdated (copyright 1996), Project Planet signage about reusing towels and saving dolphins — if the graphics of smiling dolphins mean anything — decorates the doorknobs.

The Preface to Brower’s book begins, “Twenty years ago one of us couldn’t find a way to recycle a car full of newspapers–and this was in Cambridge, Massachusetts, supposedly a hotbed of environmental activism….Recycling has certainly come a long way since then.” I flip to page 31 of “The Bottom Line of Green is Black” where Saunders extols the recyclable virtues of the ENVIROPET ™ plastic ketchup bottle.

Which is why the plastic bottles of water on the side table (“Please enjoy this water with our compliments”) intrigue me, it being 2007, about a decade after these books and signs were published. We all — should — know by now that the boom of bottled water sales has incurred a boom in landfills of plastic waste. The label on the plastic bottles in the room says the source of the water is Iceland which “largely uninhabited and pollution free, has one of the cleanest environments on the planet.” There’s no recycling label on the bottle; instead there’s cash redemption if you live in CA, HI, CT, NV or NY…but not Massachusetts, nor Iceland.

Over at Barney’s, a giant retail display comprising aluminum cans and bottle caps in the shape of a giant head (I think) greets customers. I can’t discern it’s meaning or its connection to Barney’s green Christmas marketing campaign but someone in their marketing department must have the skinny on its DHM. Barney’s shopping bags, made of recycled paper urge us to “Have a Green Holiday.” With some label snooping in handbags, designer clothing and shoes, the goods at Barney’s are manufactured in Europe. Atmospherically out of my price range, at least these goods are not directly contributing to our looming Chinese debt crisis and likely help out Italy’s sagging economy. Still, what anything in the store has to do with being green is beyond me. I admit to a weakness for imported perfume (Goutal, Eau de Hadrien), and at that point of purchase, I learn from the clerk that Barney’s is a top recycler. Oh.

I’ll still use a touch of green (CMYK 66, 100, 20, 4) in the new logo, but it will take a backseat to anchoring, real and meaningful Blue Iris. And I’ll keep hoping for the magic as well as the meaning in green marketing.

Heather Rae, a contributor to, is a consultant in cleantech market management and serves on the board of Maine Interfaith Power & Light. In 2006, she built a biobus and drove it from Colorado to Maine. In 2007, she began renovation of an 1880 farmhouse using building science and green building principles.

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