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Green Building Curmudgeon

Green Fatigue

After years of pushing for green building and remodeling, people have started pulling on the other end. We need to work hard to keep that momentum going.

I feel like I have been pushing the limp rope of green building and remodeling for almost 10 years now, and very recently, someone finally yanked on the other end. Finally, there is enough interest to make a career out of it!

But wait—suddenly everything is green. It seems like every new business is called “green” this or “eco” that. Now that homeowners are becoming interested in green building, there is so much confusion in the marketplace that they are becoming lost in a huge sea of “green.” There are dozens of building certification programs that the public is challenged to distinguish from one another. Green products and product certifications, many of which are of dubious value, are choking the market. To add to the confusion, we have green designations for individuals.

And let’s not forget the media. A few years ago, it was rare to see an article about anything green, yet today the only way you aren’t bombarded with green articles is if you don’t read or watch TV. These forces have combined to create what Jim Hackler, the “Urbane Environmentalist,” refers to as “green fatigue.”

Backlash!

Clearly, consumer interest in green building is increasing, but I am worried that the information overload that creates this green fatigue may be leading some people to see green as a fad—they may wait on the sidelines for it to pass and see what comes along next. We are in danger of losing the attention of a significant part of the population, which the industry cannot afford.

Those of us that are passionate about green building understand that it is not just a passing fad; we know that it is the future of our industry, and we need to continue to increase demand for and supply of green homes. It seems like we are looking at a huge mountain of green everything that we will have to climb up and over before sustainability becomes the norm. We need to come up with a way to tunnel through that mountain and get to the other side faster, before we lose everyone’s attention.

It seems that even the media is beginning to experience green fatigue. The events of the last few weeks—celebrity deaths, gubernatorial trysts in South America, Iranian elections—have managed to push sustainability off the front page and out of our consciousness.

Planning our own obsolescence

I like to think that the current definition of “green building” will eventually give way to just “building”; that someday, all building will be “green,” the only way we build and remodel. When that happens, we will need to look for our next point of differentiation to stay ahead of the pack. My gut feeling is that this won’t happen during my working life, but it might in the next generation’s. Until it does happen, we need to keep up the hard work of building, remodeling, marketing, teaching, learning, and convincing homeowners, contractors, trade contractors, lenders, appraisers, and everyone else involved in the industry that green building is the right path for all of us to take. It continues to be an interesting journey.

2 Comments

  1. Carolyn Allen | | #1

    First it's an innovative product. Then it's a feature.
    Good observations. But We love shorthand labels and green is so much shorter than sustainable or eco-friendly or ISO-certified, etc. So I think it will stay around. But the real business point is that innovations (especially high tech) start out as stand alone products and services, and soon get rolled into 'conventional', newer generations of standard products. The same will happen with green and energy efficient and water smart, etc. They are now stand alone products with high differentiation, but soon ALL the competitors will have the standards incorporated and then we'll expect the new standards. But the concept of ever-evolving high-performance to cope with our gigantic environmental challenges will probably go on for about 30 more years. Many timelines are pushing legislated compliance standards out over that period of time. Don't burn out yet...we still have a few decades ahead of us :-) Carolyn, SolutionsForGreen and CaliforniaGreenSolutions

  2. Stephanie Edwards-Musa | | #2

    Yes, Yes, Yes...
    I thought Hackler was spot on with that presentation. We need to start showing the benefits and not just using the word green. Everything is green, people don't understand what it is anymore and people won't buy what they don't understand.

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