Green Lies

Real Estate Agent with Real Living Real Estate Solutions

Let me get this out of the way immediately:  There is NO government or official definition for the term 'Environmentally Friendly.' 

Those two little words have become an industry onto themselves.  A marketing tool and claim by advertisers, manufactures and others to sell their products to the uninformed masses that want to do the right thing.

The term 'Greenwash' is now used to describe this type of disinformation.

It leaves an all together nasty taste in the consumer psyche.

I believe most people  are enthusiastic and well intentioned when it comes to making a difference regarding their carbon print.  However, and I stress this factor, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

It starts at the grocery store (the regular ones or the fancy 'healthy' ones) with the other key word in this "drama" Organic.  Ironically enough, here is yet another word that the government has declined to officially define.

So, basically, Organic means :You pay more because we make it sound healthier

Next on the list of culpable words is Sustainability.

Originally it was meant to refer to the quality of a product.  However, when it came to selling a green products it suddenly came to mean something that was produced using an equivalent amount of resources to those it consumed.

Think about that.  It is simply not possible.  But it sounds good, real good.

I have learned that as a Realtor I better understand that I can only use the term Sustainable with careful consideration when referring to a property.  If at all.

Another rib tickler is Life-cycle cost.  Like in those fancy light bulbs (the same ones that people are just finding out are pretty poisonous and dangerous to change, yeah...those).

If those fancy bulbs cost more to purchase but saves money on each utility bill, its cost over its lifetime may be less than the cheaper bulbs. 

The cause that I seem to have taken on upon myself is that consumers have the right to know the ins and outs of this green movement.  This is a cause that is in its infancy, and therefore Realtors and Consumers should be able to talk honestly with  each other.  If we don't know the answer, we can find out.  That sounds respectable, and it is the truth.

Or we can make people feel guilty because they do not see the 'organic, sustainable, life-cycle' of this wonderful green property.

Your choice.

I know what I am doing.

Comments (11)

Claude Cross
Homes By Cross, Inc. - Charlotte, NC
Charlotte NC Homes For Sale

Good post- Is there such a thing as an "organic" House. or How about a Big Green Organic house with a small carbon footprint that saves polar bears? The antithesis would ba a home with a small nuclear power plant. You know what they say "it's all in the zoning".....:)

Feb 16, 2009 05:38 AM
Douglas Garbe
Real Living Real Estate Solutions - Orlando, FL
Real Living Real Estate Solutions

Claude - This is the exact reason people are becoming wary of the green movement.  As I mentioned in a previous blog, even the church has gotten into the racket (they smell money too)

Money+Religion= Green All around.

Thank you for your comment.

Feb 16, 2009 05:56 AM
Tony Anderson
Century 21 Community Realty - Habersham, GA
Realtor - Serving Habersham Banks, White & Hall Co

Show them the MONEY!

Feb 16, 2009 10:03 AM
Pangaea Interior Design Kitchen & Bath Design, Remodeling
Portland Oregon - Portland, OR

Gosh, I'm so sorry I can't agree with everything in this post. You are quite correct that there is not a specific definition for "environmentally friendly", nor for "green", nor for many of the terms used to indicate that various products do less harm to our planet or use less resources than other comparable ones, or use resources that are easily renewable. Never the less, I do think that people are savvy enough to get the idea that there are degrees of success for various products in how responsibly they are manufactured. Yes, there are vendors who will use the terms to make their products sound better, but people need to take their own responsibility for examining what benefits some products have over others. Just like we need to read the number of calories and grams of fat on products marked "light", we need to pay attention.

There are however specific rules regarding products that are labeled "organic". So that is well defined.

Also, "sustainable" never meant 'good quality'. It refers to using resources that are renewable. It simply means that the resources used can be replenished in a reasonable time. A property would never be referred to as "sustainable", and only new construction can earn certifications such as LEED.

Rather than overly focusing on specific terms, it seems that it would be better to discuss the benefits of various features of the property as using less energy, saving on utility bills, or reducing chemicals off-gassed in the air. Those things are concrete and can be appreciated by your clients.

Feb 16, 2009 06:30 PM
Douglas Garbe
Real Living Real Estate Solutions - Orlando, FL
Real Living Real Estate Solutions

Tony - I am trying, believe me!

Feb 17, 2009 04:29 AM
Douglas Garbe
Real Living Real Estate Solutions - Orlando, FL
Real Living Real Estate Solutions

Pangean(I wish there was a first name) - First of all, thank you for your long entry.  That shows me that you actually care about the issue, and that you have given my post some thought.

Much appreciated.

However, I will have to agree to disagree with you.  As far as the word 'organic' I am going to trust my Consumer Report advocacy and remind you that the government defines anything with enough loopholes for the lawyers to drive Mac Trucks through.

If I remember correctly, the last issue had to do with fertilizer.  According to the government it is okay to use cow manure (coming from cows that have been given steroids) when growing 'organic' products.

Please, explain that to me, according to your "well defined" rules.

My issue is not with people using the term in a deceiving manner.  I am worried about the people who use the 'green cloak' to pump up their customer basis.  These are the Realtors who will call a 20 year old house sustainable.  Not because they are lying (although, believe me, I swim with sharks) but because they are ignorant(on purpose) of the facts.

The water is being muddied.  I feel my duty as a human being/earth advocate/Realtor(last) is to correct misconceptions.  I want to learn along my customers.

Intimidating them with 'rational concrete' solutions is not the solution.  If we are going to use these terms while trying to make money than we need ground-rules.

Something that is grown with fertilizer that comes from cows that have been pumped full of steroids is NOT organic.  It is not, no matter what you say.  It is not.

It would be a wonderful planet on which people read labels and cared about the details.  However, welcome to planet EARTH.  Economy is in trouble, people can't feed their families or keep their homes.

It is at times like these were the Green Movement needs to be at its most vigilant.

Abuse of trust and power during hard economic times is not fiction.

Feb 17, 2009 04:47 AM
Edward D. Nikles
Ed Nikles Custom Builder , Inc. / Nikles Realty , Inc. - Milford, PA

Doug , I couldn't agree more about Green Washing ! It seems everybody is getting on the Green Bandwagon regardless of the product ! Insulation made of ground up Blue Jeans ?? Please ! How about giving the Jeans to some less fortunate people who have no Pants ! Would seem to make more sense to me ! People should do their homework on all green products to see what is real & what is wannabee green ! Keepin' it Green !

Feb 18, 2009 01:06 PM
Douglas Garbe
Real Living Real Estate Solutions - Orlando, FL
Real Living Real Estate Solutions

Ed - Thank you for the kind words and the great examples.  As you can see from some of the responses....the topic is still garanteed to bring about controversy.

And yet it is so simple.

Feb 19, 2009 10:19 AM
Michelle Viggiano
Four Winds Healthy Home Carpet & Air Duct Cleaning - Scottsdale, AZ

I have had an eco-repsonsible carpet and air duct cleaning company since 2001.  I myself have had to muddle through labels, claims and dogma with the so called green community. The fact is, at least in my business, cleaning solutions are either "chemically based" or "plant based"  There are more responsible choices in every area of our lives; and choosing a plant based product in any arena over a chemical based one is a wiser choice on many levels. 

I personally am offended when people suggest that I am on the green band wagon for money.  I clearly could have made far more money if I used traditional chemical cleaning agents since my company's inception.  When I started, if I said I was "green" most people said "Oh, and exactly how long have you been in business?"

In my faux finishing business we also use non-slaked plasters and we tint them with ground earth pigments as opposed to slaked plasters with  commerical colorants, as well as  paints with No VOC's not just in the base, but also use the paints which have No VOC's in the colorants ot tints as well. More time consuming and a little more expensive, but no greenwashing either when it comes to ingredients and what they mean.

If you have a chance read some of my ealier posts - "The Green Shame - The High Margin Of Decieit" and "Is Green The New Grey?" I have the same concerns as you, only mine affect my credibility and the ability to pay my mortgage.

Feb 20, 2009 12:19 PM
Douglas Garbe
Real Living Real Estate Solutions - Orlando, FL
Real Living Real Estate Solutions

Michelle - First of all, I apologize if you were offended.  Obviously within this type of forum assumptions are going to be thrown around and it is hard to not insult or hurt some body's feelings.

I believe, as you pointed out, that it is more logical to call something 'plant based' then to go ahead and call it 'green.'  That makes sense and catches people's attention.

I will read your posts and I will comment of them (I'm going there right now, as soon as I finish this :))

Thank you for your comment.

Please, no hard feelings.

Feb 23, 2009 04:22 AM
Andy Brown
Climer School of Real Estate - Arctic Bay, YN
Best Real Estate Training in Florida


At times, you almost sound like an engineer!

Great Post!

Andy Brown

PS: How's business? Would you like some marketing help?

Sep 12, 2010 07:45 AM