Green Washing or Eco-Spin might be something you’d expect from a petroleum giant or a mineral mine but when it starts appearing in The Eco building industry, we need to start paying more attention to our product choices.
In the past, mainstream industry has relied on the “every little bit sells” approach to eco-friendly branding. Unfortunately, this has lead to a culture of corporations making a minimal or even negligible effort while branding themselves as eco-conscious and ethical (as in the case of the notorious polluter setting up their own “accreditation” organization and selling accreditation to their polluting competitors – giving their whole industry an instant green tick of approval). As the value of the green dollar soars, more and more unaccredited companies are moving into the industry it’s imperative to know what’s what in green accreditation and ratings.
Energy Star has been an extraordinarily successful rating system for electrical appliances, insulation products and other consumer goods with much of the developed world adopting the system. It provides consumers with an instant method for comparing goods on the basis of energy and water efficiency. It has however faced criticism for inaccurate testing and reviewing methods with the US Federal Court ordering reviews on many ratings following complaints from 14 states in 2006.
The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Accreditation and Rating system has become the default when if comes to designing an eco-friendly home. Developed by the US Green Building Council, LEED focuses on five key areas; sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, material selection and indoor environmental quality as the cornerstones of it’s rating system. The scheme is still in its infancy and has attracted quite a lot of criticism for, amongst other things, being too lenient with its basic ratings and too expensive for private builders. The LEED system however, boasts transparency and constantly under review by independent industry experts. So, for now, LEED is the most accessible tool mainstream America has when making green building choices.
But is it enough to aim for a basic LEED rating? Net Zero Impact housing takes eco-construction one leap further where the builder not only opts for a neutral impact build (including using recycled materials and measuring the “embodied energy” of all materials), but offsets the build by providing appropriate reclaimed natural habitat elsewhere. The resulting home is completely sustainable and without adverse environmental impact. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult and often expensive to ensure a build qualifies as a Net Zero Impact build and issues such as processing and transporting reclaimed materials come into play.
It is ultimately up to the builder to decide how green their build will be but over time, hopefully we can look forward to a universally accepted standard that is passionately adhered to by the entire building industry! Just imagine.
About the Author: Susan Long is a passionate campaigner for clearer green building standards and has spent many years assisting buyers, builders and sellers to make greener choices through her work at Sell House Fast.