Why is it so hard to be green?

August 7, 2007

My wife and I are contemplating building a new house.  One of the bigger allures for us is to try to build a green home.

Well, it turns out it’s not very simple.  Just like the age-old “paper or plastic” question, nothing seems very clear when it comes to being green.

There are competing certifications for just how green you go (LEED and, in Washington, Built Green).  You essentially earn points for the choices you make in materials and building methods.  For example, you get more points for using certain kinds of carpets over others.  But what do you get for not putting carpet in at all?  No points, as far as I can tell (how’s that for counter-intuitive?)  Should you install solar panels when it takes more than a decade to recoup the costs in your electricity bill?  Should you use a highly green siding material that needs to be shipped halfway around the world, or should you use a less sustainable material that is produced relatively locally?  Nothing is clear or an easy answer.  Some choices are more clear if you are wealthy enough to do things on principle without regard to the economics of the decision.

Which, I suppose, brings me to a point.  I think most people get that we must be more responsible to our planet.  But commercially, we’re not making it clear or simple for consumers or businesses.  Adweek ran a cover story about a year ago called “It’s Not Easy Being Green.”  In it they cited a study that said 64% of the general population can’t name a green brand.  That’s pretty stunning.  But even more worrisome, 51% of those who consider themselves to be “enviromentally conscious” couldn’t even name <strong>one</strong> green brand.

It shouldn’t be this hard.

There is a market out there and it’s growing rapidly.  As marketers, are we responding to that marketplace demand quickly and concisely enough?  I don’t think so. That’s a problem, for sure.  The time to act is now.  There’s great opportunity for those companies that make these dilemmas easier to navigate.

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