Does anyone want a tree?

It’s a foot-tall spruce. I’ll even throw in the green-checkered, cotton bag it was tucked into, along with the pine cone decorated with a tiny wood chip painted to resemble a little bird.

How, you might wonder, did I wind up with a tree in a box?

Follow the logic of Coinstar, the Bellevue-based coin-counting company that sent it to me:

Copper mining has big environmental impacts. Coins have a lot of copper in them. If you leave those pesky pennies sitting in your sock drawer, someone has to mine more copper to put new pennies into circulation. Thus, taking your change to a Coinstar machine is good for the environment.

And nothing says eco-friendly like mailing a spruce to a newspaper reporter.

Welcome to the green-selling machine.

The idea that sex sells is now sharing space with the fact that green sells. Big time. Corporate America has discovered that it tugs at customers’ heartstrings these days. People seem to have a big appetite for all things green.

Sales of organic products have gone from $10 billion in 2003 to more than $16 billion in 2006, and were expected to surpass $20 billion last year, though the numbers are still being tallied. More broadly, products sold as sustainable or healthy – everything from vitamins to wind power – added up to more than $200 billion in the U.S. in 2005, by one estimate.

But it’s become a Wild Green West out there.

Legions of marketers are trying to infiltrate your overtaxed eco-consciousness, with pitches ranging from earnest to ridiculous.

The result is customers are growing warier. And now government watchdogs are taking notice. The Federal Trade Commission is looking to update its 1990s-era guides advising companies what environmental claims they can make.

“I think the amount of terminology that has creatively come out of the marketing departments to describe attributes of ‘green’ rivals the ability to name paint,” Michelle Harvey of the Environmental Defense Fund testified at one of the FTC’s hearings. “How many ways can you name a green color?”

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