Is a Muddier Shade of Green OK? I Think So

Let’s plant a billion new trees... Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) ranks some sports cars greener than current hybrids... both headlines I ripped out of my local paper on the same day earlier this month, and I think they say something about efforts toward sustainability. The first was a quote from the latest Nobel peace prize winner Wangari Maathai who suggested the tree planting underta...

11/01/2006


Let’s plant a billion new trees... Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) ranks some sports cars greener than current hybrids... both headlines I ripped out of my local paper on the same day earlier this month, and I think they say something about efforts toward sustainability. The first was a quote from the latest Nobel peace prize winner Wangari Maathai who suggested the tree planting undertaking as a way of combat ingglobal warming. The second headline refers to a list developed by a green advocacy group that’s geared toward helping consumers evaluate the “greenness” of new cars. Strangely, three flashy European sports cars appear on the list, and one even ranked higher than a hybrid.

Green is on my mind at the moment as I’m in the middle of making appointments and preparations for the annual Greenbuild Conference. I’m also in the midst of reviewing submissions for our annual ARC Awards, which always include a number of sustainable technologies. But a comment from this month’s cover story on cultural facilities also sticks with me: “Creating a sustainable design is certainly a goal in the cultural arena... However, developers still often stop short of seeking LEED certification, because when they go through the paperwork, they’re not connecting the dots between all the process and the end result.”

I think there’s a strong analogy between LEED and hybrid cars. It’s not necessarily the best choice for everyone. I must confess this hit home with me. After 10 years, it was time to replace my old Dodge. I knew I wanted a smaller, fuel-efficient vehicle, and the Honda Civic seemed to be the car for me, especially since it came with a hybrid option. But when it came time to actually sit in and drive the car, there was no chemistry. Just for the heck of it, I wandered across the street and looked at the Mazdas. I ended up buying the 3, the Civic equivalent, because frankly it was much sportier%%MDASSML%%and also had “zoom-zoom.”

My point is that the sustainable movement, including the use of so-called green technologies, must make sense and achieve some kind of connection with the building owner or operator. I’m not saying abandon LEED. Despite its imperfections, it is absolutely essential as it sets the bar and creates awareness. But like the Civic, it’s not for everyone. That’s why I must especially tip my hat to groups like EDF, who are putting some common sense in to green. I’d love to see a similar group of top products for the M/E/P community, where X product is ranked by it’s ability to deliver energy efficiency, water conservation or what not. Some action along these lines is underway. The Pittsburgh-based Green Building Alliance has launched a regional initiative not only to promote more green-based manufacturing, but also to survey local manufacturers to evaluate whether their products have a role in the whole green specification process and whether they should be marketing that fact. Like the notion of everyone planting a tree, I think similar regional initiatives can go a long way in bringing perhaps a muddier, but bigger, green picture to bear.





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