Nowadays buzzwords seem to have replaced actual definitions. Nothing demonstrates this more than the addition of “green” in descriptions of everything from washing machines to underwear. So, as was my nature in middle school, I sit quietly in the back of the room, pensively raise my hand, and very timidly ask: “What is Green?”
You’d assume that the answer would be pretty cut and dry, but when looking for a definition for what qualifies a product as “green”, I have as many answers as I have sources for answers. The definition changes based on who is answering the question. “Okay”, I thought, “I’ll go to the biggest source I know of-the EPA”.
In the first sentence on their “What Makes a Product Green” page, they say, “What makes a product green can be complicated”. Thanks, guys. Pretty sure that’s why I am on your webpage asking questions about green products. They go on to highlight things like taking product life cycles into consideration and highlight a few of their current programs like the “EnergyStar” stickers. Now the Energystar thing makes sense to me. It’s a simple sticker laid out in a manner in which children can interpret how energy efficient the product is. Can’t we apply that principle to other products? I mean at this point, it sounds like as long as the product does not glow in the dark or doesn’t result in the slaughter of thousands of woodland creatures in its production, then it’s got potential to be labeled as “green”.
Thankfully there are a few independent companies out there in the consumer world like Green Seal. Green Seal is a non-profit organization that establishes its own strict standards of eco-friendliness and sustainability. You cannot buy a GreenSeal and their results are totally transparent. Taking a science-based, non-profit approach to product certification certainly makes a lot more sense to me.
So, as little sense as the certification process may make, here is something that doesn’t make sense at all to me: In a study across 22 different product types, “green” products hold a combined 2% market share. No one buys them. Public perception is that because a product is “green” it does not work as well as “un-green” equivalents. People will take the efficient over the ecological any day. So why even bother certifying a product as green if it means it won’t sell?
In some cases, it is a genuine example of corporate responsibility. Take for instance Method Laundry Detergent. They are single-handedly revolutionizing the laundry detergent business with one of the greenest products on the market, but they come right out and say “If you want a green product to sell, don’t call it green”. Theirs is not a sales pitch, just a perfect example of winning by doing the right thing.