I recall going to the grocery store on one occasion in Texas when I was a kid in about 2000. Going to the grocery store was a normal occurrence for me. Why then do I remember this trip more than two decades later? The reason is because of a two-liter bottle of soda. I noticed that the label on the soda – it was a fruit-flavored soda if I recall – touted that the beverage was fat free. Even though I was young, I was a bit puzzled by this ad. I thought to myself that it would have been somewhat concerning if the fruit-flavored soda was not fat free. That was perhaps when “fat free” jumped the shark – so to speak. Every food and drink manufacturer had to get in on it. From fat free chips (noteworthy) to fat free soda (not noteworthy).

I thought of this story when I saw an eco-friendly highlighter at a shipping store in Brooklyn, New York.

Photograph of a boxed "eco-friendly highlighter" hanging at a shipping center in Brooklyn, NY. It is $1.99.

To be sure, not all highlighters can claim to be eco-friendly. Moreover, unlike a fatty fruity soda, a highlighter that is not eco-friendly would not raise concerns in me. But having noted the differences, I think what we have here is another example of a marketing fad getting out of hand. Is anyone buying a highlighter because it is made out of 75% recycled PET material? I don’t know. The marketing seems like it should be more effective for things like paper or electronics. Eco-friendly marketing may be going a bit too far downstream.

Then again, I don’t think I have a highlighter in my desk drawer…