Green Washing: What It is and How to Watch for It

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Green Building or sustainable building is composed of certain elements

The Green Building process is becoming more talked about everyday, whether new construction or remodeling, home owners want to have a more efficient and environmentally friendly home. But Green Building is much more than just following a checklist. Green Building or sustainable building is composed of certain elements like design, energy savings, water savings, health and managing resources used in the home. The check lists are the guidelines to help determine what areas need to be addressed in the process and what steps have to be taken. But these check lists and the points often fuel the factor of Green Washing.

Green Washing is when a manufacturer, supplier or builder intentionally or unintentionally makes false, misleading or exaggerated claims about their products and the environmental benefits they may have.

A great example of Green Washing is when a builder puts a few energy efficient products in a home and claims it is a green home. Another example may be when a manufacturer uses recycled products and makes a green claim. Check the percentage of recycled material in the product before believing every green claim. Also check to see if a company is truly watching out for the environment in their everyday practices and not harming the environment with some other product they may produce.

A couple easy phrases may just be the tip to help with determining whether a product is green.

First don’t fall for the phrase, “My product is LEED or NAHB Green Certified”, USGBC’s LEED or NAHB Green Build Programs do not certify products, they only provide guidelines on what a product have to achieve to fit within the guidelines.

Also watch for generic phrases like “This product uses the newest Eco-friendly or environmentally save technology", but has no documentation to back it up.

Beware of the maintenance free claims. Just because a product may be maintenance free does not make it green.

Always asks for documentation to substantiate the green claim. If a company can not provide you proper information you are asking for, it is an immediate red flag that they probably don’t really understand what makes a product green.

Labels and certification documents are always the best way to determine whether a company or a product can back up the Green claim. Energy Star, FSC, SFI or WaterSense are just a few of labels you can look for. These are considered third party certification that has already determined that a product fits within proper criteria. You can find a more extensive list of these third party certifications at Green Building Ideas.

Some products may be very green and may not hold a third party certification. Consider these labels as a filter to help but don’t always disregard a green claim just because it does not have a third party label on it. Do your research and look into the company or product before making a decision.

Finding products and substantiating claims may be the longest and most time consuming process in any project, unless you find a builder that has a strong background in the green building process. Ask your builder if he or she is a NAHB Certified Green Professional or AP LEED certified. Then ask to provide you with examples of a green project they have completed. This will make your, new construction or remodeling, green project a more satisfying experience.


1 comment

Kerry Hosking
Posted on Aug 24, 2009