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noun [uncountable]

1. the business of selling environmentally-friendly products to the public

2. the practice of using environmentally-friendly methods to run a business which sells products to the public


noun [countable]

'Greentailing and the 64 Thousand Tree Question – Can Reducing POS [=point of sale] Paper Consumption Save the Planet?'

Ezine Articles 4th June 2010

'Ottawa Home to Canada's First Gold Certified "Greentailer" … At first glance, the new Natural Food Pantry store … looks like many of the other contemporary, urban, retailers … "But that may be where the similarities end," explains owner Rick Payant, who has been busy putting the finishing touches on his third, and perhaps his 'greenest' endeavor to date.'

Allvoices 21st October 2010

It's the weekly shop and as you retrieve your reusable shopping bags from the car, you feel a warm glow of eco-consciousness – those days of accumulating endless checkout plastic bags, which you later guiltily discard, are well and truly over. As you walk round the store, you might give your eco-conscience a further prod by dropping a pack of recycled loo rolls into the trolley, or opting for an environmentally-friendly washing-up liquid. Picking up a packet of fresh tomatoes, you're reassured to see that their protective packaging is bio-degradable. Yes, the growing wave of environmental responsibility during the last two decades has made a definite impact on consumer and retailer alike. Just as we've begun to think more carefully about what we buy and discard, from the seller's perspective it's become increasingly important to demonstrate an attempt to embrace 'green' values – a phenomenon now sometimes described as greentailing.

working under the assumption that most consumers have some degree of environmental conscience, greentailing is
good marketing practice

The word greentailing is used in two different senses: the sale of environmentally-friendly products, and the use of sustainable, eco-friendly methods in running a retail business. In practice, those retailers who are genuinely serious about doing their bit for the environment will do both: operate in an eco-conscious way and, if not exclusively, sell at least a proportion of eco-friendly products. Retail companies such as Walmart have led the field in greentailing, having first implemented a sustainability programme several years ago. However the trend seems to be gaining momentum, with more and more companies integrating green initiatives into their operations. Such initiatives include the use of renewable energy, reducing waste and increasing recycling, cutting down on water consumption, implementing light-efficiency programmes inside stores, and maximizing the efficiency of deliveries in order to cut fuel consumption and reduce the number of vehicles on the road.

Though a key motivation for greentailing is concern for the environment, businesses can also benefit in other ways. Use of renewable energy sources and other eco-friendly initiatives can save money and, working under the assumption that these days most consumers have at least some degree of environmental conscience, greentailing is good marketing practice – many of us now want to buy environmentally-friendly products and would be more likely to support businesses which are visibly interested in saving the planet.

Background – greentailing

The expression greentailing originated in American English, and has gained currency in the past couple of years or so, earning itself a place in the US edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. Notable in popularizing the term were authors Neil Stern and Willard Ander in a book entitled Greentailing and Other Revolutions in Retail: Hot Ideas That Are Grabbing Customers' Attention and Raising Profits (Wiley, 2008). The derived noun greentailer is also used to refer to retailers selling eco-friendly products and/or widely implementing eco-friendly initiatives.

Greentailing is of course a blend of the adjective green, in its ecological sense, and the noun retailing. The sense of green defined in the Macmillan Dictionary as 'designed to protect or limit damage to the environment' is now just as significant as its colour sense – perhaps even more so in everyday communication – although it is usually listed as a secondary sense by dictionary makers who conventionally cover more literal meanings first. Another neologism incorporating this sense of green is the verb/noun greenwash, which refers to the situation of an organization attempting to convince people that they are doing more to protect the environment than they actually are.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

Last week …

Read last week's BuzzWord. The twelve words of Christmas.

This article was first published on 4 January 2011.

Open Dictionary

Dunning-Kruger effect

the phenomenon by which an incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence

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