The May issue of Vogue arrived on my doorstep this week, filled with all the usual high fashion photos and news. But this issue also featured a section on how the trendy set can “go green.” It seems that “the private-jet set are not just cutting carbs, they’re cutting their carbon footprints.” What that means, judging from the Vogue write-up, is that one can buy things like the Country Comforts-brand “repurposed” down pillows for $63 a pop, an $843 Marni tote, a $960 Hermes wallet-size pouch, a $275 painted tote, and– my favorite–a $331 brown (cotton?) tank top from Bergdorf Goodman. And how could I forget the $1,425 leather grocery bag by Boudicca? The list goes on.
Now, I’m not quibbling with columnist E.J. Dionne’s column today arguing that charitable deeds by the entertainment industry — or the super-rich, in this case –should not automatically be pooh-poohed. Big companies and rich people have can certainly have legitimate concern for the less fortunate peoples of the world. But what strikes me about the big-budget green consumerism advocated by Vogue is that it takes wealth to buy products that are economically inefficient to produce. If wealthy people want to squander their pocket change on goods and services that, in my view, are probably phony, ineffectual, feel-good things, that’s certainly their right and privilege. But I hope they’re not delusional enough to think the rest of us should go for the $331 “eco-friendly” tank top at Bergdorf’s instead of the $2.00 tank top at Walmart. Or that any tax-and-ration energy scheme will make the “little people” better able to indulge in posh products.