Why does the color green symbolize environmentalism?
We often refer to things and actions that are beneficial to the environment as “green,” but why? You may hear phrases like “eat green” and “greening your life” and wonder why we use the color green.
Green is the color most associated with nature because the color is the most common in the natural world. There are many green-colored living things in the world like trees, plants, grass, animals, and others. Many plants are green because plants absorb photons in red and blue regions of the light spectrum during photosynthesis. However, only about 90% of the green photons are absorbed, giving plants the color we are most familiar with.
Green is also associated with a blissful life, freshness, and energy that comes from nature. Different American surveys found that green is the color most commonly associated with nature, life, health, youth, spring, and hope. Green can also represent springtime and freshness, further adding to the nature symbolism.
Because of its association with nature, it is the color used for the environmental movement. Political groups advocating environmental protection and social justice describe themselves as part of the Green movement, some naming themselves Green parties. This has led to similar campaigns in advertising. Companies also utilize color in marketing by naming products as green, environmentally friendly items. Over time, the term “greenwashing” has made its way into popular vernacular. The term describes the process by which a product is branded as “green,” but in reality, is simply not the case. To learn how to avoid greenwashing, read this previous tip of the week article.
Written by Emily Su, Class of 2022