Green is giving me the Blues!

Love me, I'm Green and you should be.
Love me, I'm Green and you should be.

Why is it when we talk about green building or sustainability its many times an all or nothing venture. Homeowners would embrace green building practices if they were inspired, for the most part they are not. If green living saved money, consumers would flock to it, it doesn’t and they don’t. There’s a problem, and what is this problem.

What we have here is a failure to communicate.

We owe the next generation a healthier planet, we should build better products, we could easily do some things to ensure this happens, but we don’t. The list of easy things to do is so long the New York City phone book would pale in comparison. But it ain’t happening because the need for doing simple things that would make a difference isn’t attractive to most people. Plus they don’t get it, I don’t get it always either.

What about the experts?

Vinyl siding is green because you never have to paint again.
Vinyl siding is green because you never have to paint again.

Unfortunately experts don’t always agree and even when they do they often impress each other but seldom the main group of people they would like to influence. Its an arrow that misses because its shot at the wrong target. Many homeowners faced with a choice to go green or not aren’t ready to commit because they have seen many fads come and go. Not a fad? Not to you or I, but it is to some people.

What are sustainable practices and what is green building?

Why should I spend money on green when I really don’t understand what it is? And here is a big part of the problem, today green is everything that can produce income. This is what homeowners see the most, green cars? Gimme a break! Green plastic bags, Green is everywhere and has now worked its way into being a cliche. The list of make believe green products grows daily and its become a matter of advertising over substance. I saw green candy bars recently and noticed they were more expensive than the other candy bars. That’s the message that we are getting, feel good spending a little more because its green.

And therein lies the rub as Shakespeare would say. Green is becoming the new leisure suit, a hot topic for many and a fashion miss for many more. People either get it or they don’t, and even many that get it don’t think its worth the price. Why? Because green is green when it should really be crystal clear, and its not.

Is there a solution? Sure, have an agreement that everyone can work towards and then take science and acumen out of the picture. You can have sustainable practices in stages, a simple pamphlet that could explain what green practices are within reach of all homeowners. Forget the prizes for green building, make it common, until green becomes common it will be a boutique achievement. It will make a few people feel good and make most people feel it is out of their reach.

Written by Paul Lesieur/ Silvertree


  1. I like the idea of eliminating “Green Design” awards, if you integrate green into the criteria for regular awards. That may appear too general, but when judging awards currently all of the categories are vague – use of materials, space planning, etc. It would gentle push the industry forward much more than a niche award. The risk would be even more green washing.

  2. I think the trouble here is you can’t make “green” main stream and continue to separate it from good building practices. Good building practices is green, and if “we” as an industry accept that and stop singling it out in customers minds, they will come to expect these “good building practices” as the norm, and this problem will start to solve itself.

  3. Just can’t pass this one up. Paul, props on this post! Shawn above does a great job of crystalizing Paul’s thinking on certain “incentives”; excellent suggestion! The “green candy bar” I think says it all, though — it highlights marketing’s ability to be opportunistic (i know, doing what they are paid to do), and I won’t even address media’s role in this whole thing. I feel and please tell me know if I am wrong — that there is an ungoing, underlying sense of wariness on the part of homeowners that will always confront the residential construction industry. . . becasuse of this, they say, “Is this just another trend being shoved down our throats (I know it’s not)?” But, in a way, it does all depend on who is wielding this “new” science. And right now; green is green and the industry research helps propel smart business people. . .today’s smart homeowner knows this (thanks to Remodel Crazy’s of the media world). Just for that reason: maybe like Paul, I say we’ll take green on a case by case basis, for now, but in the meantime please think about using less water, turning that light switch off and reusing materials at least until the practices and our communication surrounding them can mature. (I hope I didn’t open myself up, too, to a hailstorm of expert advice.) Thank you. and BMoxieBMore. jb

  4. JB, your opinion is based on experience, that alone give it credit. Careful thinking and our own individual support drives green now and will be the only logical way to bring people around to understanding that we can all do something, it doesn’t have to be big, it just has to be a start.

    Its a huge process but like the longest journey, it starts with the first step.

    When we demystify sustainability more people will be interested.

  5. James basically said all that needs to be said.. We just need to build smart and more efficiently end of story.

    We don’t need the hype, government or Green leaders to lead us on the path of more confusion and in house squabbles among them.

    They are just polluting the idea and making it harder to move in the right direction.. Hell they don’t even agree with each other so how do we look to them for direction?

    The term got watered down and now means little to the consumers they were trying to reach..

    Built smart, efficiently, improve on current methods and the greening will come in time.

  6. I loved this post. I love that Paul grabs the Green Bull by the horns and suggests we professionals create useful easy to understand collateral for our buyers. Right On!

    Skip the self proclaimed powers from on high and brown nosing “experts” or Green Pusher marketers.

    When a builder or remodeler can say ” Sheesh this same priced toilet is gonna save you 50% – 70% on your water bill, here is an proof of what I mean”


    “Hey buyer this simple inexpensive insulation package is gonna save you 70% in energy costs like it did on my house this year.” That is the rubber that hits the road and moves us all forward.

    Sell products and methods that exceed current requirements and last 100 years or more. Thats value to your buyers!

    I’m all for an industry standard we all sign up for and market ourselves. I don’t have time left in my professional carrier to wait for USG or state regs.

    Thanks for your blog post. Cleared up what was making me sneeze so much lately.

  7. I wish I I had only half the writing skils you had Paul. I would retire and start a cool blog and call it Remodel Crazy.

    Thanks for all your inspiration and great articles. Thank you bloggers for all your great comments, they all hit home.
    I have been remodeling as you know Paul,for 43 years and managed to retain a small portion of those lessons learned at the school of hard knocks.

    The (Green Remodeling) buzz word call it what you want, it has so many meanings to all of us,and need not be so complicated.
    When I hear from some it doesen’t cost more I wonder what planet they live on. It must be earth it,s the only Green one.

    Green practices, and good remodeling, usually does cost more, and we hope for a return on investment in a reasonable time frame to re-coup our and our customers investment. When it doesn’t who is it helping and how does the idea grow?

    I think it boils down to common Sense and we promote it that way. Our investment in labor and time is what makes the difference, ask yourself is it worth it. Is it worth it to yuur customers? To the land fills? To the enviroment? To our Country? The answer is up to the individual.

    I took one of the first classe for green remodeling certification, great ideas, but in my opinion, too costly and time consuming to work for the majority of remodelers. Hundreds have taken the class how many projects have been certified? Keep it simple and (MAKE IT WORK) A better way is in all of us. We just need to find the simple solution and share our ideas,it’s staring at each of us right now.

    When we build let us think that we build forever. John Ruskin


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