In a 2010 study conducted by Terrachoice, an independent testing and certification organization, some very interesting and troubling facts were presented to consumers. As a construction professional for almost thirty years, and at the risk of sounding arrogant – I am neither shocked nor surprised.
The misleading nature of most marketing efforts involving “green” or “eco-friendly” products is pervasive. In fact, according to the study 95% of “green” products are being greenwashed. Their study found that out of 5,296 products tested, only 265 were really as green as they claimed. As a consumer society that has fallen hook, line and sinker for these “green” campaigns we ought to be mad as hell.
Now, I am not going to go on (too much) about how the current administration is completely fallen for “Big Green”, its outrageous claims, and its influence, much of which is at the expense of other viable job creating industries. With billions of dollars in subsidies going to this segment with virtually nothing to show for it in terms of jobs, wealth creation etc. (can you say Solyndra?) doesn’t the America taxpayer deserve better? After all it is the tax payers that are now saddled with the cost of the failed debt that these companies received.
The question here is not political, but simply why? Why has this emphasis on the “green” companies failed so miserably?
In the early 90′s my company was building homes for the middle market. We were considered leading edge by our buyers in terms of design, construction quality and techniques AND energy efficiency. We were going green before being green was popular. We learned a very interesting lesson that has become the basis of our decisions (with respect to “eco-friendly” or “green” products used) today. Our customers were very happy to know that “their” home was built with various “green” products and construction techniques. However, if we asked them to pay extra for this (at the time), the answer was a resounding “no”. Why was this so in the early 199o’s? The reason was that the consumers in that era were unable to quantify what those “green” products and procedures meant to them. Would the green products they purchased add value when they decide to re-sell their home? Did the additional costs of these products pay dividends elsewhere (such as energy bills)? Our buyers had no idea, and we didnt properly educate them. Perhaps back in the 90′s had we educated our buyers better in simple economics such as R.O.I. (return on investment), we would have had even more success.
Most purveyors of “green” products sell on emotion and mislead the public with every manner of deception in an effort to sell more product. According to the 2010 Terrachoice study, most products (remember 95%!):
- have no independent 3rd party certification
- have hidden trade-offs (i.e. more energy, water pollution etc. used in the production process)
- use vague attributes (i.e. “all natural” could contain arsenic, mercury, formaldehyde etc.)
- use false labels (invent their own “green certification”)
- sell irrelevance (i.e. claim “no CFC’s” for example when CFC’s are already federally banned )