Eco-fatigue in the paint store

Eco-fatigue in the paint store

Recently I was in a Sherwin-Williams store (a couple of them, actually; there was a bit of a snafu involving paint bases and inventory) when I experienced two odd moments. The first was upon entering the store, when I noticed for the first time in my life the company’s logo. I took a (bad) photo of it later:

"Cover the Earth!"

A better image is here, along with evidence that I’m not the first blogger to question the wisdom of this particular corporate logo. It seems to beg the use of the word "glop" in any description—as in, that paint is glopping all over the planet! Someone stop it! Other bloggers, too, have noticed the company’s spintastic explanation of the logo on its website. It’s right here, at the bottom of their "GreenSure Initiatives" page.

Which brings me to the second odd moment. I was standing around waiting for paint to be tinted and noticed a special little section of "eco" products: no-VOC paint, paintbrushes whose handles are made with FSC-certified wood, biodegradable paint trays, etc. And whereas during the past few years, I likely would have been somewhat cheered to see these products, this time I just felt sort of irritated. "What good does one lousy shelf of supposedly green products do in a big store full of conventional stuff?" I thought.

Quite possibly, it was my pre-existing bad mood talking (see: snafu), but it sometimes does strike me as deeply beside the point to worry about the handle of a paintbrush being FSC-certified.

Many personal eco-actions require a big leap of faith for the person undertaking them to believe they are worthwhile and effective—it’s that familiar "If everyone did it, what a difference it would make!" argument, which we rarely or never get to observe firsthand. We just muddle along, buying our paintbrushes and turning off light switches, while the big trends (climate change, extinction) continue to get worse. Meanwhile, companies have found a nifty new way to make money: putting "green" lables on their products and organizing special sections in their stores to appeal to a small, earnest subgroup of customers. Sometimes it really feels like too little, too late.

Clearly, readers, I need a little pep talk.