Greener than Green or Green Fatigue?

Hello, my name is Mike Loughery and I am Director, Corporate Marketing Communications for CertainTeed Corporation.

Copy of Michael low res picWe’ve seen tremendous promotion by all types of companies about how “green” they are. The “greenest this” and the “most environmentally friendly that.” It’s easy to get caught up in it all.  We see consumers jumping on the bandwagon and we all follow right along, hoping to tap into what we think is an insatiable appetite for green and sustainable products.

And here we are, several years later and what have we accomplished? At CertainTeed, we have reached inside our core selves and found that a lot of what gets credit for being “green” these days already existed as very aggressive cost-savings initiatives—efforts that existed long before the green discussion started.  Our position is simple:  we strive to be the industry leader in the development of sustainable building products and the environmentally friendly operation of our facilities.

However, promoting “green” means only promoting what you can back up.  We don’t buy into the “greener than green itself” mentality which dilutes the message and impact of the overall green movement.  Unfortunately, there is so much overhyped green speak out there that the hard-working efforts of those who really want to make a difference in the world of sustainability are being hindered.  Everywhere you look there’s so much green–who knows what to believe?  Now, the focus becomes whether it’s “green washing” or the efforts are truly legitimate.

I hear it from architects and even the media—this idea of “green fatigue.”  So much so, that serious questions are being raised as to the legitimacy or believability of manufacturers’ claims in their advertising and marketing materials. 

I believe the appetite for green is still there, but maybe it’s time to do a gut check.  We all know that Green is here to stay.  Now, the challenge for all of us is to responsibly represent ourselves to preserve the integrity of what the green movement is all about.  Does it mean going low-key while letting our actions speak for themselves?  Maybe. 

We have a responsibility to promote and also educate about the true sustainable advantages of our products—energy efficiency, indoor air quality, moisture and mold resistance, recyclability, recycled content and so on.  All the other stuff is cheap window dressing.

If you’re green, great, promote it—but do so responsibly.  Back up those words with proof.  Consumers want the truth.  I’d be interested in your thoughts.  Where is this green movement going?  How can we promote green legitimately without causing distrust in the marketplace?

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  • Richard A. Hennings, AIA:

    I really hope I don’t see many more 6,200 sq. ft. homes for families of three located on 6 acres facing (your favorite body of water) with 90% glass walls published as great eoc-friendly solutions. The 1950′s three bedroom rambler on a fifty foot lot and a 65% efficient fuel oil furnace that I grew up in was much greener.

  • Green fatigue is right! What ever happened to good engineering practices and the Market being the driver of a product’s survival/acceptance? It is more like a “Green Religion” out there. All that the American Institute of Architects can talk about and promote is “green-ness.” Frankly, I am sick of it…..they are fresh out of ideas. I’ll specify and use a product when it makes sense in the balance and according to my client’s desire.

  • I agree that the “greening” of everything has been overdone, reducing the whole thing to a fad that may soon pass. I feel that conserving our resources should be considered good design, and as energy prices rise the most efficient products will ultimately be rewarded by consumers. My advice is keep your logo blue and let your products performance speak for itself.

  • Green fatigue has definitely taken its seat in our midst. For most of us, “Green” is the new norm and the focus now is having the mind set of being responsible toward a sustainable environment in all that we do. From raw materials to manufacturing to final installation, we absolutely need to document and prove how responsible we really are.

    We are experiencing a greater movement toward green products, industries and businesses that can help us achieve higher sustainability goals wherever we are. As a result, most businesses will also experience increased profits and others, reduced costs. Please continue to showcase your sustainability initiatives!

    At the same time, if we are accountable in practicing sustainability in all that we do and to the best of our ability, we will avoid green washing. It all starts with the desire, the mind set, the tools and the knowledge toward sustainability.

    There are still questions around some dinner tables such as “what is green” or “I would be green if, I knew what it was” or “being green is expensive”. Promoting green needs to continue at schools & colleges, at manufacturing facilities, at businesses and at home. Keep up the good work CertainTeed Corporation, the work is not done.

  • We are just getting started. While I think that there will be a bit of a green pause, necessary in any activity to catch your breath, I’m convinced that this is merely a moment to regather ourselves and set new goals. My 17 year old son’s generation takes all we have done as baseline, and are amused that we brag about things that, in so many ways, is just good design principles we let pass for a short time. For them, global interconnectedness with each other and nature is simply the only possible end game. They will define regenerative design in ways we can’t even conceive now.

  • I’m to the point that I’m really disgusted with some of the architects and engineers I’ve met in various venues. Too many see it all as another marketing tool and could care less about what the final (efficiency/green?) outcome of a project will be. With a laugh too many have essentially said “…if it helps my bottom line…I’m green… I’ll even hug a tree…” Perhaps this is the reason so many projects are coming in with lots of LEED points…but fail to meet the consumption goals that were “planned”.
    Then there’s the clients…that want to “look” green but could really care less…to the point they want you to dress it up with green “icing”…sheesh.

  • Green is definitely worth the effort and will help future generations. Understanding Green and putting it to use is a balancing act of efficiency and cost. Going Green will pay for itself,the time factor is the critical issue. Payback prior to replacement or upgrading is the determining factor. AND, all products should be 100% recyclable.

    Architects who have researched Green can usually tell when a company is Green Washing their products, but it would become soooo easy if everyone would tell it like it is vs. stretching the truth to a point just before the breaking point. When we find Green Washers it would be great if we could expose them through a public announcement and boycott their products until they repent and come forward with the truth.

    I support Green and Sustainability, BUT after attending two classes to prepare me for taking the USGBC NC exam I was unsatisfied with their idea of Green. When I see buildings with full height glass walls facing north and west on a USGBC Silver building and speak with individuals inside who state they can’t get warm in the winter, I am appalled! Architects want and design green buildings and in many cases, better than USGBC standards. I also disagree with government agencies requiring their buildings to be USGBC Silver (California for one) as this is a government agency supporting a single private business. Yes, USGBC is a business, not an agency. Government should support Green with code changes not supporting private business.

    Please, keep your Green efforts alive and expanding while keeping them truthful. Plastics and asphalt materials are difficult to support as Green unless they are all recycled 100%.

    • Brock, I agree with your statements because I have seen too many owners/developers that want the most bang for the buck, no matter what. Their first step in “no matter what ” is to chose products that usually have the least first cost period, with NO consideration for life-cycle costing. Life-cycle costing is a simple issue with them because the product does NOT have code mandated min. standards, but is simply another choice based on the lowest initial cost alone. By having building code mandated min. sustainable values required for the products we Architects and Specifiers get to select from, I feel we will obtain better projects by default, removing the owners whimsical choices to “get the most square footage for the very least initial dollars”. I feel that the resulting projects will represent truly the best value for that owners dollar.

  • Gary M. Wancour, NCARB:

    Many of the basic concepts of the ‘Green’ movement are simple, healthy construction and product application issues. These include items such as low V.O.C. materials and finishes as well as fresh air intakes added to return air component of forced air HVAC.

    Too much of the Green Movement smacks of the impracticle elements that were prevalent in the Environmentalist Movement of the late 1960′s to early 1970′s (oops, I date myself…). Fairly priced, quality products that reflect our current health values and construction savvy speak for themselves without being part of the green fad.

    Fashions come and go. Good quality products will survive the test of time whatever the current fads are. “Going Green” will soon be long gone.

  • Yes, “Green is in”. Being Green ,I feel, is very important. Ct should do everything possible to be “Green” and be able to back it up & explain it.
    True, others may be ” blowing smoke” or “fibbing” but thats ‘ not
    really our concern.
    An analogy to “SAFETY”. We should do everything to build safety into CT & into our employees minds.
    Its good for all of us.
    Green is on the lips of everyone in the Building Industry.
    Some of us may think its too much ,or all talk ,over emphasized etc. etc. . But We have to look thru all this and at the facts.
    Being Green is the right way to operate.

    • Hey Richard, no argument from me on that one. We have all determined that green is important and it’s here to stay. What is concerning is that there are so many greenwashers out there that architects/builders/consumers don’t know who to believe anymore.

      All we’re advocating is responsible promotion of green and sustainability so that we can earn the trust and respect of our customers/architects/contractors and consumers.

      Keep fighting the good fight. We are!

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