How do you define Green?
Wednesday, 02 April 2008 00:00

The term "green" gets tossed around so much these days you'd think the Irish had taken over. I can hardly watch a nice round of Thursday night NBC without GE touting its green credentials. Some people have their own definitions for green while more than a few don't seem to have a clue and instead just go along with the hype - not questioning or asking - like my 2 year old daughter following a puppy. Well, just so there's no confusion, let me tell you what GREEN means to me.

Green is not a marketing initiative nor is it restricted to any particular industry. It's not a kitchen makeover or bamboo flooring. It's as much an attitude as it is a recognition that everything is connected and history matters. What we do today - and every day - is as important to the future of mankind as the air that we breath. While green can come in many colors, I believe it has three primary attributes:

Energy Efficiency. This is all about reducing our carbon footprint. It does not mean eliminating everything that produces carbon from the way we live - we don't have to step back to the stoneage. This is about recognizing the best and most efficient alternatives that allow us to save energy. All polyurethane products - like Eco-Panels and spray foam insulation - use petroleum, for example. But by using one barrel in the insulation of a home you could save hundreds of barrels of petroleum products that may otherwise be required to heat and cool a traditional stick-built structure.

Durability. I once heard a speaker state that most homes in the US built today are built so cheaply they had an expected lifespan of 35-40 years. If we buy or build products that do not last then we are doomed to expend energy and resources on building and buying them again and again, all while our landfills grow larger and larger. "Built to last" should not be a single company's marketing slogan, it should be a goal that we all strive to achieve.

Locality. While I believe that a global economy has its place, I also believe in consuming locally produced product wherever practical, and shopping at your local big box store where everything comes from China doesn't count. I busted my ass this past Christmas to buy presents that were made either locally or at least in America and for the most part I succeeded - but it wasn't easy. Wouldn't that be a great problem to have if the American consumer stood up and demanded that their products come from a manufacturer located in the US? Should we insist on continuing to purchase cheap clothing in spite of the fact that your neighbor just lost their job because the factory moved to another country? "But my t-shirt only cost me $5!". Gimme a break. Twenty years ago "Buy American" was a slogan companies and Americans were proud of and stood behind. What happened? Our media today is funded by those same companies moving jobs overseas - don't listen to them. Ever notice how "Everyday Low Prices" and "Falling Prices" go hand in hand with a flailing economy? Becky Anderson, founder of the Appalachian-region based non-profit HandMade in America, speaks of a "place based" economy, and that's how our country grew big and strong for over 200 years. Today we're often spending more in moving products around this globe than we are reaping from the value of the products we buy. This, people, is not sustainable.