Will Going Green Lose Some Gusto?

Everyone seems to be going green, but may be another "We Are the World" moment.

ByABC News
February 10, 2009, 11:36 PM

July 12, 2007 — -- This year as consumers switch to energy-efficient light bulbs and trade in their SUVs for Priuses, a cliché normally reserved for fashion magazines has made its way into nightly newscasts and daily newspapers: Green is the new black.

In 2006, a PowerPoint presentation -- voiced by Al Gore in "An Inconvenient Truth" -- ushered in an unprecedented era of environmental awareness. The next thing you knew magazines published green issues (Vanity Fair, Domino), actors waxed poetic about reducing carbon emissions (Leonardo DiCaprio) and musicians rocked out on a global scale under the auspices of "saving ourselves" from global warming (Live Earth).

But are Americans experiencing "green fatigue"? The ratings for Live Earth, which was billed as a must-see event, were dismal. The American broadcast drew just 2.7 million viewers, making it the least-watched U.S. program on Saturday night. Despite its undeniable entrenchment in pop culture and media, some experts say that the current incarnation of the green movement is just another "We Are the World" moment that consumers and businesses won't be able to sustain over the long term.

"It's a very difficult thing to change culture," Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for NPD Group, told ABCNEWS.com, and Ikea charging 5 cents for carrying its plastic bags out of the store instead of bringing in your own isn't going to do it, he said.

Instead, Cohen believes that most companies are taking advantage of the celebrity support and the media's furor over the issue of global warming to make a profit -- not because they are contributing to some greater societal good or feel a corporate responsibility to do so.

"This is the story of the tortoise and hare," Cohen said. "There are some companies that are coming out of the gate and using it as a marketing tool with no genuine long-term plan to it."

Others, he said, will try to make it part of their corporate identity. The companies in the green movement for the long haul will be the ones who win with consumers, he said. Companies like Chipotle, which only uses organic food, and Bare Escentuals, which produces all-natural cosmetics, are already well on their way, according to Cohen.