What does „Treehugger“ mean? Meaning, explanation, definition

The term „treehugger“ has become increasingly common and is a pejorative term for a person who is committed to environmental activism and sustainability. „Treehuggers“ have a preference for nature, animal welfare and a lifestyle that is in harmony with nature. They are committed to anti-pollution projects and strongly advocate the use of natural and sustainable resources.

The term „treehugger“ is a typical term used by people who hold opposing views. In order to explain the term in more detail, the following article will deal with the points of interpretation, use as well as history and criticisms in the interaction with „treehuggers“, among others.

What does „treehugger“ mean? Meaning, explanation, definition

The term „treehugger“ is a made-up word composed of the English noun „tree“ and the noun „hugger“ (meaning „a person who hugs someone or something“). A „treehugger“ is therefore – loosely translated – a „tree hugger“.

Symbolically, a „treehugger“ is a person who has a strong love for the environment, nature and animals. The metaphorical embrace of a tree suggests an expression of love. However, the expression is somewhat removed, as people usually only hug other people or animals, but not trees or plants. Accordingly, „treehugger“ is also used to make fun of people who exhibit their characteristics.

History of the term „Treehugger“

The term „treehugger“ probably originated in the United States of America in the 1970s. Initially, anyone who campaigned for the protection of forests and against their deforestation was considered a „treehugger“. To this end, protesters joined forces and sometimes chained themselves to trees that were threatened by deforestation. This gave the impression to outsiders that the protesters were hugging the trees. Consequently, this observation gave rise to the term „treehuggers“.

In the course of the last decades, the term „treehugger“ also became established for people in general who were committed to environmental protection and an alternative (environmentally friendly) lifestyle. Today, the term „treehugger“ is mainly used as a swear word for people who are against environmental pollution and deforestation as well as factory farming. The comparatively pejorative term is primarily used by counter-movements to environmental protection.

Is there a „Treehugger“ movement?

Since the term „treehugger“ is primarily a pejorative, it is not used by environmentalists and nature lovers themselves. Consequently, there is no environmental movement with the term „treehugger“ in its name. Nevertheless, there are people who are strongly committed to environmental protection and against the use of fossil fuels. Those people are also committed to combating climate change.

Concrete actions of people who are called „treehuggers“ by outsiders are, for example, protest actions, demonstrations or engagement in direct environmental protection such as cleaning forest or beach areas. This makes the movement of environmentalists quite diverse and fragmented into countless groups, which are often referred to by outsiders as „treehuggers“.

Lifestyle of „Treehuggers“

„Treehuggers“ are usually ascribed an extremely sustainable and environmentally friendly lifestyle. But how exactly can this be defined? The following subsections will therefore focus on the consumption behaviour and views of treehuggers.

Consumer behaviour

„Treehuggers generally attach great importance to sustainability and environmental compatibility. Accordingly, they prefer products and services that have been produced from sustainable materials and under ethically correct conditions. At the same time, „treehuggers“ reduce their consumption of products made from finite resources as much as possible. In order to reduce their ecological footprint as much as possible, „Treehuggers“ also make sure that the relevant products are regional and seasonal. „Treehuggers therefore consume very consciously and sustainably. When it comes to consumer goods, they also focus on durable and repair-friendly products. Treehuggers are also happy to spend more money on these than necessary.


„Treehuggers often feel a deep connection with nature. That is why they are committed to its protection and preservation. Furthermore, treehuggers are critical of the system of capitalism and globalisation. They see the consumerist society above all as strongly damaging to the environment and wasting resources. Climate change and environmental pollution are the main fears of „treehuggers“. In order to make themselves heard and to push through their own agenda, „treehuggers“ often also seek political influence. Therefore, many treehuggers are also politically active (at national and international level).

Criticisms of treehuggers

Although „treehuggers“ on the whole have very positive and sustainable intentions, there is much criticism of them. Many critics accuse „treehuggers“ of being idealistic and unrealistic and that their views are no longer compatible with the demands of modern societies. Others criticise that „treehuggers“ focus their efforts mainly on individual consumer behaviour, but pay less attention to structural causes. In addition to demonstrations and protest actions, treehuggers are also politically active, but this commitment is not enough to really tackle the root of the problem. In developing countries, treehuggers are also criticised because their views are „typical problems of industrialised countries“ and have nothing in common with the realities of life in developing countries.

Conclusion on the topic of treehuggers

In summary, the term „treehugger“ is a derogatory term for an environmental activist that originated in the USA in the early 1970s. There, protesters preferred to chain themselves to trees in an attempt to protect them from deforestation. In the course of history, however, the term „treehugger“ has become established more generally for environmentalists and people with alternative, environmentally friendly lifestyles. „Treehugger“ is primarily used by people with opposing views to make fun of said people.

Related to the term „treehugger“ are, for example, the terms „environmental activist“, „eco-activist“ or „granola boy“. While the terms „environmental activist“ and „eco-activist“ basically have a similar meaning to „treehugger“ but do not sound pejorative, a „Granola Boy“ is a food-conscious and sustainability-oriented person (boy or man). A granola boy often shares the views of treehuggers and consumes mainly ecologically sustainable, healthy and non-animal foods.

Autor: Pierre von BedeutungOnline

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