Green consumerism is on the rise in America, but its environmental effects are contested. Does green marketing contribute to the greening of American consciousness, or does it encourage corporate greenwashing? This tenuous ethical position means that eco-marketers must carefully frame their environmental products in a way that appeals to consumers with environmental ethics and buyers who consider natural products as well as conventional items. Thus, eco-marketing constructs a complicated ethical identity for the green consumer. Environmentally aware individuals are already guided by their personal ethics. In trying to attract new consumers, environmentally minded businesses attach an aesthetic quality to environmental goods. In an era where environmentalism is increasingly hip, what are the implications for an environmental ethics infused with a sense of aesthetics?
This article analyzes the promotional materials of three companies that advertise their environmental consciousness: Burt's Bee's Inc., Tom's of Maine, Inc., and The Body Shop Inc. Responding to an increasing online shopping market, these companies make their promotional and marketing materials available online, and these web-based materials replicate their printed catalogs and indoor advertisements. As part of selling products to consumers based on a set of ideological values, these companies employ two specific discursive strategies to sell their products: they create enhanced notions of beauty by emphasizing the performance of their natural products, and thus infuse green consumerism with a unique environmental aesthetic. They also convey ideas of health through community values, which in turn enhances notions of personal health to include ecological well-being. This article explicates the ethical implications of a personal natural care discourse for eco-marketing strategies, and the significance of a green consumer aesthetic for environmental consciousness in general.