NBC Green Week – Really?

Well, they had it coming.  Last week, NBC Universal (owned by GE) declared it Green Week on the network, an effort within its larger Green is Universal campaign.  Before this week, I just brushed it off as yet another big company jumping on the bandwagon of using green to market themselves as hip, cool, forward thinking and innovative.  Then they launched Green Week.  And the jokes began.  This is in fact the network’s 3rd year of doing a Green Week where, as one late night talk show host jabbed, “they ask everyone to go green by watching TV!”

Well, there’s more to it than that but aside from the message they are trying to spread, the campaign is riddled with greenwashing and overuse of the term green in general.

On the Green is Universal home page, their backdrop features cute little sayings like

Green lives here

Green connects here

Green shops here

Wait, what?  Green shops here?  What the hell does that mean?

If that isn’t asinine enough, try clicking through their “Make Green Count” section where they suggest – wait for it – turning off your computer to save energy.  Oh, and the lights.  Also, use reusable water bottles!  OMG revolutionary.  You mean if I turn OFF my lights, it will save energy?  WHY HAVE I NEVER BEEN TOLD THIS BEFORE?

Oddly enough, they never suggest turning off the television to save energy.  But then if you did that, you would miss all of the little green messages being broadcast through popular shows like 30 Rock and The Office.  So really the message here?  Watch TV – save the planet!  That seems like an environmental platform even conservatives could rally behind.

Maxim Magazine had the best attempt at broadcasting the ironic hilarity of NBC Universal’s promotion of green.  Enjoy:

The tree is my favorite part.

The lesson here is: If you really aren’t green at all, please don’t vomit the word out of every orifice of your company.  You’re rendering the term completely useless and doing nothing real to help the environment.  And it’s 2009 – you can’t fool us anymore.  We have the Google.

Posted by: Ashley / follow me on Twitter

Tips to Avoid CE Greenwashing

CE Pro magazine, a publication specializing in (you guessed it) consumer electronics and the custom installation professionals that sell, install and service them, recently published the “7 Deadly Sins of Greenwashing”. As “green” has become THE buzz word in recent years, more and more companies are (knowingly or innocently) participating in greenwashing practices: “making false of dubious claims about whether a product of service is green, or how green it is.”

CE journalism vet Steve Castle provides some great “Don’t!” tips for companies looking to manufacture or tout their environmentally-friendly (or not) products and services.

  • Hidden trade-offs: Don’t focus on one thing, like energy efficiency, and disregard another, like a product’s toxicity.
    Every little bit helps, but to claim true “green”, we are talking more than just the color!
  • No proof: You should have a third-party review of your claims.
    You’ve watched Law & Order, right? No proof = no case.
  • False claims: Don’t lie.
    Remember, everything we (should) know, we learned in kindergarten.
  • Vagueness: Don’t stretch the truth with claims like “all natural” that includes naturally occurring mercury, for example.
    PR professionals, take heed. Oh wait, that’s us! Note taken.
  • Lesser of Two Evils: Don’t say, “Sure it’s toxic, but it’s also energy efficient!”
    HA! Yes, that is a joke and dangerous for company.
  • Irrelevance: Don’t take something good, like LED lighting, and make its ecological virtues irrelevant by overusing.
  • Label Worship: Anschel cites the NAHB’s “Green Approved” product label as one that is available to many products and does not indicate a green certification.
    There are a number of resources and certification programs… The bottom line is be smart and stay true to the underlying goal – to create products and services that are more environmentally friendly to protect the Earth’s resources and natural state.

Great tips to follow to ensure you and your company are not inappropriately capitalizing on this tempting trend. The penance for these sins could be severe.

Posted by: Katie | follow @katieshort on Twitter

What USDA Organic Really Means

The organic movement has grown to an almost $20 billion industry in the United States, due in no small part to the federal regulation label “USDA Organic” and its appearance on thousands of products nationwide.  As the desire to eat healthier and protect the Earth grows, so does the willingness of consumers to fork over up to 50% more for some foods simply because they carry the organic label.  From a marketing perspective, who wouldn’t want their food to bear this stamp? 

So how does a company go about getting certified?  It involves paying hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars to certifiers from the Department of Agriculture who then rely on many different sets of criteria to determine whether or not the product can bear the label USDA Organic.  It seems that when the system works, it works and the foods that are certified organic are actually organic.  Recently, however when a plant owned by Peanut Corporation of America was responsible for the samonella outbreak caused by contaminated peanuts and it was found to still have its USDA Organic certification despite the fact that it no longer had  a state health certificate, the system came into question.

A private certifier took nearly seven months to recommend that the U.S.D.A. revoke the organic certification of the peanut company’s Georgia plant, and then did so only after the company was in the thick of a massive food recall. So far, nearly 3,000 products have been recalled, including popular organic items from companies like Clif Bar and Cascadian Farm. Nine people have died and almost 700 have become ill.

Consumers equate organic with safe and unfortunately, this is not always the case.  More and more, Americans are seeking out foods that are grown locally, meats that come from humanely raised animals and are harvested by workers who are paid a fair wage.  The problem is, organic doesn’t mean any of that.  So while the label maybe be a step to ensuring that the foods we pick from our grocer’s shelves are a less harmful choice, it certainly doesn’t end there.

Emily Wyckoff, who lives in Buffalo, buys local food and cooks from scratch as much as possible. Although she still buys organic milk and organic peanut butter for her three children, the organic label means less to her these days – especially when it comes to processed food in packages like crackers and cookies.

“I want to care, but you have to draw the line,” she said.

Recently, a sign near the Peter Pan and Skippy at her local grocery store declared that those brands were safe from peanut contamination. There was no similar sign near her regular organic brand.

“I bought the national brand,” she said. “Isn’t that funny?”

via The New York Times

Posted by: Ashley / Follow me on Twitter

Green Building Perspectives: National Lumber Company

national-lumber-logo1Green Life Smart Life is sourcing lumber, as well as exterior and interior building materials, from one of the most environmentally-conscious companies in the field, National Lumber Co. of Mansfield, Mass. You can read about National Lumber’s green initiatives here.

We spoke with Mike McDole, National Lumber’s vice president of sales, to learn what he thinks of our project, as well as green’s overall impact on his company’s business.

What do you think of the Green Life Smart Life Project to date? What interested National Lumber about the project?

We are very excited to be a part of it. The project has been moving along at a good pace, especially considering it is being built along the Rhode Island coast during winter.

Kudos to Bob Leonard and Mark Lubic of Merchant Construction for doing such a fine job. Credit also has to go to the homeowners, Kim and Joe. They did a tremendous amount of research and pre-planning prior to putting a shovel in the ground, which paid off once construction started. They had multiple pre-construction meetings with Tom Wickham, our Contractor Outside Salesperson covering South County (R.I.), to choose the various green building products they wanted to use in their project. As a result, the building materials were on the job site when needed, which helped keep the job flowing smoothly.

What really attracted us to this unique project, besides the fact that it is in my neighborhood, is that National Lumber is a huge supporter of green building and environmentally-friendly building practices throughout New England. We are a third-generation family-run business, and we care very much about smart building practices in all of the neighborhoods we service. In addition, Kim and Joe’s passion about building an environmentally-friendly home, and their knowledge of green products, also contributed to our extreme interest in this special project.

Where does National Lumber see green building going in the next five years?

It is estimated that green building products and services currently represent about $40 billion, a figure that is estimated to grow to $140 billion in 2013, with $90 billion of that in products alone. Several factors are contributing to this enormous growth. One, the public wants to be more environmentally-friendly. Two, an unprecedented level of government incentives are available. Three, there have been improvements in sustainable materials.

According to the EPA, buildings account for 39.4 percent of the total U.S. energy consumption, with residential structures accounting for 54.6 percent of that total. Also, building construction and demolition account for approximately 136 million tons per year, which is approximately 60 percent of all non-industrial waste generated in the U.S. Americans want to reduce their energy usage and their waste to protect the environment for not only themselves, but for many generations to come.

How is your company evolving to address green building?

National Lumber has been involved in green building practices for approximately five years now. We were the first lumber company in New England to be able to supply FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) Certified Lumber along with the Chain-of-Custody Certificate, which assures that the lumber comes from a responsibly managed forest. Even now, in February 2009, we are one of only four lumberyards in New England with FSC Certification and Chain-of-Custody Certificate; there are currently no lumberyards in Rhode Island with these credentials.

In addition to the lumber, National Lumber partners up with building materials manufacturers who also are interested in green building.  Such manufacturers are Andersen Windows, Marvin Windows, Boise Engineered Wood Products, Huber (Advantech & Zip System), SBC White Cedar Shingles, Owens-Corning Roof Shingles, kitchen cabinet manufacturers and more.   

What challenges does National Lumber face in the evolution of green building?

The biggest challenge, I think, is “green-washing,” which is what corporations do to make themselves and their products look more environmentally-friendly than they really are. Real standards are needed that must be met before a company can call its products “green,” and right now, no real standards have been accepted by the construction industry.  However, a few strong organizations such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), US Green Building Council, and NAHB’s (National Association of Home Builders) Green Building Program are making a difference.

The second-biggest challenge is the fact that it is slightly more expensive to build green. However, I believe that the more green building there is, the cost spread will be reduced over time.

Do you think green building will ever dominate your business?

I don’t think green building will ever “dominate” our business, but I do believe it will continue to become a larger and larger percentage of our overall sales. I certainly could envision green building becoming 25 to 33 percent of our total lumber sales within the next five to seven years, which would certainly be significant.

Anything else you would like to add about the green building market or the Green Life Smart Life project?

We truly appreciate that Kim and Joe picked National Lumber Company to be their supplier of lumber, along with their exterior and interior building materials, on this unique and exciting project. We are very proud to be a part of it.

Green as a Second Language

It’s hard not to think of “green” as a second language when there are words you’ve never encountered before and have no idea what they mean. I’m not talking words like sustainability or organic. I’m talking the developed language of green, words that are hybrids of the English language and green verbiage.

These are some of my favorites:

Webecoist – A website for sustainable living and green design and oddities such as weird animals; they also produce weburbanist which is a site for architecture and urban street art…and utterly cool.

Locavore – a person (or animal I suppose) who only eats local food sources.

Ecomompreneur – I first came across this term on Twitter by a woman who was a self defined eco conscious individual, mother and entrepreneur. I though it was genius, though tough to say. Her page isn’t active on Twittter anymore though.

Ecopreneurist– Best describes the eco conscious entrepreneur with heavy emphasis on the business side of being a good human being.

Ecomodder – this is an individual who modifies their car to increase their miles per gallon. There is such a person(s) and they are a force.

Ecorazzi — You guessed it all all the news about green Hollywood you could ever hunger for. You can find it here.

Greenopia – (this term is registered BTW) Utopia is definitely green.

Greenwashing — saying something is green that simply isn’t. You are not green just because you recycle and a company isn’t green because their product is recyclable.

Got any favorite green words?

posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster

CEA Industry Forum to Address Greening for Business Today

The description of the CEA Industry Forum’s Greening for Business Course today is this: “Green is global these days, and there are unparalleled opportunities right now for the consumer electronics industry. While some larger companies have adopted and continue to engage in green business practices, many more companies are in need of information, tools, and strategies on how to remain competitive in an ever-changing marketplace. In this session, experts will discuss best practices and success stories of similar companies in size and volume, which have excelled at greening their own operations and products and how they’ve sold their successful message back to their consumers.”

I’m looking for the following takeaways:

1. Which companies have in fact excelled in establishing best practices? There are very, very few that I have found. The group gets even tinier in the CE industry.

2. How are they selling it back? The internet is overloaded with companies that “greenwash“. They pretend to be green but aren’t even close. It’s like buying organic tomatoes from CA, consumers think they’re green because they are organic. But in reality the fuel and transportation costs, along with CO2 emissions in the shipping process, create a much larger carbon footprint than if you bought native at the local farmstand. Or better yet, had grown your own. If consumers don’t undertsand green, then how can a business be successful reaching them?

3. Success stories are few and far between, but I am looking forward to hearing about these because we want to adopt these models.

The CEA also put out this document on Environmental Sustainability and Innovation in the Consumer Electronics Industry. Check it out.

posted by: KDL / Find me on twitter: newscaster