Walking the Walk at Greenbuild 2009

Mike Loughery

Mike Loughery

An interesting thought occurred to me this week at the Greenbuild  International Conference & Expo, the world’s largest Green Building Products exhibition, held in Phoenix, Arizona.  A couple of years ago, as “green” was really taking off, many of the recycling practices and sustainability efforts at the show seemed foreign to many of us. 

Now, it just seems so natural.  We went to the show this year knowing that the 2010 rules for exhibiting at the show are going to be much more stringent in terms of booth specifications, and the sustainability requirements for manufacturers shipping, building, dismantling, and discarding of their booths.  This year, you had trash “hawks” telling you which recycling receptacle to use when discarding waste.  Gone were the piles of magazines lining the walls that simply end up in the trash.

It’s now ingrained in our thinking and “feels” like it really makes sense.  The excess and waste demonstrated by many manufacturers (including us) over the years is really under a microscope.  At this year’s show, there were booths that were going to be chipped up and recycled into mulch and you really had a sense that, in most cases, the manufacturers who were exhibiting had solid products and services that truly represent sustainability.  There are some really interesting and creative products being developed.

In an earlier blog, I commented a bit about what I termed “greenwashing” that still goes on;  however, at the latest Greenbuild, I sensed a more subdued, more responsible approach toward promoting sustainability.  There were smaller booths, for one thing.  Whether that’s a sign of the economy or just a smart way of cutting the carbon footprint, I’m not sure.  But next year, we’re all told that we can’t exceed the size of the booths that were present this year.  We’re told it’s due to space constraints at McCormick Place in Chicago.  However, I know that it will keep the mega-monster booths away and the tremendous negative carbon impact they have away from the windy city.

Let’s also take a look at the other shows we typically attend.  Why can’t simple rules like the ones we’re required to follow at Greenbuild go into effect at the International Builders Show, the Remodeling Show, AIA, and so on?  Straightforward, green-oriented practices at all trade shows could save us all a lot of money, reduce the tremendous waste these shows generate, and allow us to focus on what’s really important—one-on-one conversations with our customers.

It was a good show this week.  It always is.  Traffic was the best I’ve seen at any building products show this year and the quality of the attendees and their questions was far superior to the others.  Now, let’s apply the lessons we’ve learned from Greenbuild to our other shows.

Mike Loughery is Director, Corporate Marketing Communications at CertainTeed Corporation.

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?