Someone recently said that fiberglass insulation is green because it has no formaldehyde in it. We don't agree!
Such a statement is not much different than saying paint is green because there's no lead in it.
There is much more to being green than removing a known carcinogen. Formaldehyde-free fiberglass may be less toxic than traditional fiberglass, but it's certainly not green only due to what it does not contain. And never mind that it substantially loses its R-value when the weather gets cold.
Lumber may be inherently green because it is renewable and recyclable, but it is even better if it is sustainably harvested and guaranteed through a chain of custody. It is greener still if it is locally harvested and manufactured using energy efficient technology and non-toxic formaldehyde-free adhesives.
Greener still would be to recycle old lumber inito other useful products over and over. Isn't this the ideal, and isn't this a more complete definition of green lumber? Once we consider the entire lifecycle of a product and all the ramifications of its production, its use and its disposal, then we can get closer to knowing how 'green' it really is. The wider the definition of 'green,' the more every product appears to have some green attributes. This does little to raise the bar or change the status quo.
There are degrees of green, and the difference between light green and dark green is important to understand. We are not fighting greenwashing unless we differentiate truly green products which are green by design from those that are green by default.
In order for a greener, more sustainable world to become a reality, we must strive for the highest principles rather than be content with those products that are simply, as William McDonough has it in his book Cradle to Cradle, a little 'less bad' than before. Acceptance of things the way they are as green only dilutes our vision and delays our journey to a sustainable future.
One of the best ways to fight greenwashinig, in my opinion, is to clearly express the highest possible attainable green values and to differrentiate them from the old worn out, energy inefficient, toxic values of the past.
Copyright © 2009 Joel Hirshberg All rights reserved.