Plenty of products are trotting out their green credentials, but how can consumers and the people who build and decorate homes for us – architects, builders and interior designers, tell what’s transparently green, or greenwashing?
Metropolis magazine recently asked designers – builders, architects and interior designers about their approaches to green spaces. Their responses highlighted some of the shortcomings of cutting through the greenwashing to find the green.
One designer laments: “It can be difficult because things are not always what they seem. Recently, we were researching for a project and found a company that was selling reclaimed wood from the Northeastern U.S. When we dug a little further, we found out that the wood was being shipped to China for processing. The embodied energy in shipping the wood from the U.S. all the way to China and back did not make it a good choice. We were also looking at some cork flooring and thinking, OK, cork is rapidly renewable and comes from Portugal. It’s shipped over here on a boat–much better than a truck. But after digging, we found out that the cork is harvested in Portugal but then shipped to New Zealand for processing and then back to the East Coast. Not a great story.”
6 Tips for cutting through greenwashing:
1. Shop for products the way you grocery shop; be aware of all the components or “ingredients” in your product.
2. Don’t always believe the claims on the label, read the fine print.
3. Check all the data. If very little information is provided about the product up front, that’s a good indicator that the manufacturer may have something to hide.
4. If in doubt, check the company’s website. Truly green products don’t come with a litany of disclaimers.
5. Remember that “natural” doesn’t equal “green.” There are no laws that govern, “natural ingredients” or “all natural materials.”
6. Nothing is “fully recyclable,” aim at closing the loop.
If a product’s greenness sounds fuzzy, it probably is! Read about how greenwashing happened to me here. Do you have any greenwashing experiences of your own?