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Tracy Hepler Headshot

Should We Green Wash for the Sake of Spreading Green to the Masses?

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As the environmental movement has grown in the last few years, so has the popularity of using terms like green, eco and LEED to enhance the appeal of certain products to eco-curious consumers. While it is great more and more consumers are interested in these products, what is becoming increasingly dangerous is that many within the green community are continually misusing the terminology.

About a month ago I was in San Francisco CA for West Coast Green, an annual conference that highlights the field of green building and design. During a panel entitled "Next Gen Design, Out of the Cradle Now What" designer and blogger for Fast Company Gadi Amit touted Dell's new studio hybrid laptop as being LEED certified. There was a bit of confusion in the crowd as products cannot be LEED certified (we also contacted Dell and they stated that "so far no computers are LEED certified"). LEED certified specifically refers "to a voluntary, consensus-based national rating system for buildings designed, constructed and operated for improved environmental and human health performance."

During the Q & A after the panel an audience member (who happened to also be a LEED accredited professional) brought up to Amit that he had used the term incorrectly, that LEED certified does not apply to products, only buildings. Rather than facilitate a discussion, Amit continued on to say that it is people like her who hinder the green movement by holding LEED and other such certifications to "holier than thou" standards. The discussion was never resolved as the panel ran out of time and many left the panel confused about the issue.

What bothered me so much about this was not just Amit's mis-use of the term as we all can make mistakes, but his offense to being called out for using the term incorrectly and then faulting the audience member and others like her for hindering the green movement by wanting to use certifications and terms correctly. Currently there is no regulation for the term green, eco, sustainable-anyone can slap that label on their product with no questions asks. The green movement has only a few certified standards such as LEED, Organic, Fair Trade, FSC Certified, to misuse these items for the sake of "selling green to the masses" is dishonest and is probably part of the reason that so many people claim to be confused about what green actually is, fewer Americans see solid evidence of global warming from a year ago and perhaps why lobbyist are trying to weaken these standards.

So I post the question to you Huff Post Green readers. Should we green wash in order to continually push and spread green?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments and feel free to contact me directly about this issue on Twitter.

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