Updated: Dec 5, 2021
I love the colour green, that tranquil colour that is nestled between blue and yellow on the visible spectrum. Recently I have been contemplating the psychological effect green has on us humans. Perhaps green seems more apparent to me, due to the fact that I live in the Pacific Northwest rainforest and have an abundance of lush green around me all year round.
When you think of green, the colour is often associated with nature, life, health, youth, spring, growth, tranquility and good luck. For the most the colour green seems rather positive, so what’s up with green and why is it so appealing?
I started doing some research and discovered that the sun is emitting more photons in the green portion of the spectrum than any other colour. It emits most of its energy around 500 nanometers (nm), which is close to a blue-green light. Generally speaking, the red light from the sun is blocked by the earth, the blue light is scattered by the atmosphere (making the sky appear blue), and the green light is refracted by the atmosphere to the surface. OK, well that’s interesting, we are basically basking in a greenish light all day long.
Now let’s look at the human eye, the human visual system responds to the light in the electromagnetic spectrum with wavelengths roughly ranging from 380 to 700 nm. So that puts green in about the middle. In a nice cozy spot, not too hot, not too cold, not too soft, and not too hard, just right…. Goldilocks zone style. Perhaps that is why green makes humans positive and content?
Setting aside definitions and the science for a moment, two things I do enjoy. I would like to take a minute and think about how the colour green, particularly in nature, appeals to humans. I have lived in both the east and west of rural Canada and have seen a variety of greens.
Living in the east with lots of snow, you come to really appreciate when the days warm up and the snow finally melts. The green that was sleeping below the winter blanket slowly starts to wake up. When I was young I remember how exciting that time of year was. I could hardly wait until the green grass was full and soft so I could play away my afternoons in the yard.
Living on the west coast of British Columbia on the Sunshine Coast in the middle of a rainforest has its own very lush world of green. There is always lots of green around me and sometimes it feels like it’s the only colour around. The largest factor to the colour green that appears in nature is chlorophyll, the chemical by which plants photosynthesize and convert sunlight into chemical energy. Darn, science has found a way back into the conversation… Chlorophylls absorb light mostly in the blue portion of the electromagnetic spectrum as well as the red portion. On the other hand chlorophylls are not very good at absorbing green, and therefore it gets reflected, producing the green colour of chlorophyll-containing tissues. This is why plants appear green to our eyes.
In the end did I find some magical property of green, well yes and no. To think deeply about the science or “why” of something is fun, but in the end, if just being around the green in nature and taking photographs of this lush world makes us happy then let’s not over think it and just enjoy it.