Green Awareness - Where Did it All Begin?

Real Estate Agent with Eco-Steward Realty


I considered a number of topics to write about for this contest but finally decided to take a look at the history of the Green/ Environmental Movement and found some interesting historical facts and figures. So here we go on a journey down the Green Memory Lane ....

I found the history of the Green/Environmental really dates back around 270 years ago when 363 members of the Bishnois, caste in India gave their lives in order to prevent trees being cut to provide timber for a kings fort.   The story basically goes that when the kings men came to cut the timber, one member of the group rushed out and hugged the tree and said cut me first if you are going to cut this tree. The kings men did just that. When the community saw what happened 362 other individuals stepped up and hugged the tree and were slain. Only when the king himself came and saw the tragedy did he order his men to stop. Whew!!  These are the first recorded "tree huggers" in history, and they gave rise to the modern tree hugger.  Read on.

In this country the late 19th century had John Muir  and Henry David Thoreau writing about mans relationship with nature that spurred the creation of the first environmental groups including the Sierra Club. Aldo Leopold's  book "Sand County Almanac" published in 1949  also appears to have been a huge influence in the conservation field. In 1962,  Rachel Carson's book " Silent Spring"  detailed the dangers of pesticides(especially DDT). It was here that the pairing of land conservation issues with problems of environmental pollution began and the foundation of today's environmental movement was established.

n April, 1973 a group of villagers again in India began the peaceful disobedience of stopping deforestation in the Himalayan Mountains by hugging trees before they could be cut down. This later spread throughout many of the provinces and began known as the Chipko Movement   Almost all of these protests were local in origin and slowly spread as people saw its success in changing policy in India. This is where our modern phrase of "tree hugger" originates with a big nod to the 363 Bishnois you set the example 200 years earlier.

It was also in 1973 that the Endangered Species Act was passed and from there many of the environmental groups we know today sprung up.  

Looking at where the Green Movement in this country has come from in the last 50 years is pretty impressive, although there are miles to go before we sleep. But  I see an evolution happening in regards to more and more people, businesses, and corporations understanding that the old paradigms are not working any more. Here in Asheville new paradigms are being created every day in regards to Green Awareness. There is the obvious motivation for folks to become more Green due to the high cost of energy. But there is also a greater awareness that Green, Healthy Built homes and offices have a greater payoff in regards to overall health and sense of well being. For businesses this translates into higher profits due to increased employee productivity and reduced employee turnover.  For homeowners it means raising children in healthier environments. I believe research will eventually show that these children have fewer health problems and less allergies than those living in what we call a traditional home today.

The Awareness of Green is spreading and growing. When a company like Wal-Mart jumps on board with Green Initiativesyou know things are moving in a totally different direction. Although we have to wait and see if they live up to their goals, other businesses are also jumping on board As janeanne's earlier blog Green Goes Mainstream showed this trend is real . Citigroup has launched a real-estate portfolio review,so that it can investigate what levels of renovation or operational changes are needed to earn LEED ratings (or equivalents) for everything from Citigroup's office buildings to its data centers. The company has also  LEED-silver rating as a target for all its new office and operations facilities around the world They have crunched the numbers and for them being Green means earning more Green $$$!

So when the big multinational corporations have seen the Green Light, get ready for a major shift to occur in all segments of our economy because the Green Locomotive is on the tracks and will be heading your way sooon!  Many thanks to the people who started us on this path so many years ago, and especially to those brave souls in India who gave me a whole new appreciation for the phrase tree hugger! 

Comments (21)

YOUR perspective on "green" provides the framework, then constructs meaning. That brings all the bits and pieces right on Home. For real estate professionals and our clients, as the demand for quality increases, this larger perspective is so valuable. Thanks for sharing this broad view, Bill.
Mar 13, 2007 02:58 PM
Corey Atherton
Suncadia Real Estate Sales Company - Cle Elum, WA
Great info as always, Bill.  I guess it's never been easy for a "tree hugger".  Just ask the Bishnois!!! 
Mar 14, 2007 07:35 AM
Lola Audu
Lola Audu~Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI Real Estate - Grand Rapids, MI
Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI ~Welcome Home!
This was a very informative post.  I was really struck by the story of John Muir in the link where he said something to the effect of "let's make the mountains glad."  It's powerful to think about the fact that we can make the earth rejoice!  How we care for each other and our environment is important.  Thanks for the history lesson!
Mar 14, 2007 08:56 AM
Gena Riede
Riede Real Estate, Lic. 01310792 - Sacramento, CA
Real Estate Broker - Sacramento CA Real Estate (916) 417-2699
Bill, good history lesson...I agree let's wait and see what these companies really do.
Mar 14, 2007 12:22 PM
Bill Westel
Eco-Steward Realty - Asheville, NC
Thanks Dena. I think the Sierra Club was the first environmental group I became aware of in college and it was around the time we celebrated the first Earth Day when i planted a tree. Now I guess I am forecasting my age with that one.  
Mar 14, 2007 12:50 PM
Bill Westel
Eco-Steward Realty - Asheville, NC

Hi janeanne:

Sometimes I forget the big picture when getting caught up in all the details of daily work and life. Stepping back is often helpful.

Mar 14, 2007 12:53 PM
Bill Westel
Eco-Steward Realty - Asheville, NC

Hi Cory:

I had never heard of that story before I started doing the research. It is kind of amazing.

Mar 14, 2007 03:07 PM
Bill Westel
Eco-Steward Realty - Asheville, NC

Hi Lola:

I also liked the quote "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything in the universe." We get caught up in our own reality and the one our culture prescribes for us on a daily basis and forget that almost everything that is around us in one way or another has its source from somewhere in or on the earth.    

Mar 14, 2007 10:59 PM
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services
I really enjoyed reading the ancient history of GREEN.  I had no idea that these types of concepts were around so long ago!  I grew up in Oklahoma and I learned a lot about GREEN from the native Indians -- they really are much more in tune with the earth than the average American.  Very interesting post.
Mar 15, 2007 12:54 AM
Bill Westel
Eco-Steward Realty - Asheville, NC

Hi Joan:

I have a great deal of respect for the Native Americans( even though most of us are also natives)and the ecological values they embrace. Our entire concept of real estate and owning property is totally foreign to them. What nations did you have contact with in Oklahoma? 

Mar 15, 2007 01:35 AM
Bill Westel
Eco-Steward Realty - Asheville, NC


I think the Fortune 500 companies that are doing this will stick to it because it is not being driven by their marketing departments but by the bean counters. When they see that being Green (whatever that means to them) helps their bottom line there will be no turning back. This is a great win-win scenario everyone.  

Mar 15, 2007 01:42 AM


YOU won a GREEN STAR in the Green  is Red Hot Contest!

Mar 17, 2007 01:04 AM
John Thomas
This is the article that made me a fan of yours. I'm just an ordinary young investor guy, but I  try to read one or two blogs every week. I read janeAnne's blog. I found you through her. Write more like this one.
Mar 30, 2007 09:23 AM
Bill Westel
Eco-Steward Realty - Asheville, NC
Thanks John, I appreciate your support. I will see what I can do. It was fun doing a little research and remembering some things from my past as well.  
Mar 30, 2007 02:17 PM
Dena Stevens
Rocky Mountain Realty - Canon City, CO
Putting The Real Into Realtor Since 2004
I just re-read this blog, it's really a good one!
Mar 31, 2007 12:25 PM
Michelle Viggiano
Four Winds Healthy Home Carpet & Air Duct Cleaning - Scottsdale, AZ
Bill, this is my favortie blog posting on Acitve Rain.  I hope to see many more. Exquisitely told!
Apr 30, 2008 03:45 PM
Betina Foreman
WJK Realty - Austin, TX
Realtor, C.N.E., with WJK REALTY

Thanks for the green history lesson. I am impressed with your research. Keep up the great job!


Jul 26, 2008 03:59 AM
Pete Jalbert
The Maui Real Estate Team, Inc. - Paia, HI

Bill-Thanks for the post. I was aware of some of the domestic orgins of environmentalism, but it is cool to here the International perspective.

Jul 26, 2008 12:10 PM
Bill Westel
Eco-Steward Realty - Asheville, NC

Hi Betina:

Thanks for stopping by. I will endeavor to post some other green history in a little while.

Jul 27, 2008 11:42 AM
Bill Westel
Eco-Steward Realty - Asheville, NC

Hi Pete:

I have just done a bit of reading on Findhorn and hope to do a post soon. Thanks for your comment! 

Jul 27, 2008 11:44 AM