Surface & Panel eNewsletter

What is Green?

Written By: Jim Sherbert

Jim SherbertA couple of decades ago “green” was nothing more than a color that only a few people liked and most avoided because it doesn’t go with anything. Today, the term green is a vague reference to anything that can be marketed to infer environmental stewardship. But what does it mean? How does or should it change people’s behavior? I find it confusing when tree huggers are asked if they prefer paper or plastic at the grocery store they invariably choose paper. Is grinding up trees for paper bags green? I’m confused. 

A quick search reveals countless organizations willing to offer some form of green certification for almost any product on the market, for a fee of course.  As a business that manufactures and sells furniture globally, we have been offered nationally recognized green certification for our products, regardless of its country of origin, and in some cases regardless of the manufacturing process used. While some of these certification organizations appropriately measure process and outcome, in truth, many of these certifiers often have little to do with environmental stewardship.  For a fee, you too can be green.   

Consumers, given the choice, want to be green and are often willing to sacrifice a little in price or convenience … but very little. Survey after survey suggests that the general public believes in recycling, energy efficiency and conservation, but few are willing to actually sacrifice much to attain these.  Where government has intervened the situation has often become worse rather than better, with numerous examples of “unintended consequences” so common with governmental oversight (i.e., Biomass provision in the 2008 Congressional Farm Bill). 

The industry must adopt a common sense approach to the subject of green.  Some items align easily with environmental considerations, while others are more challenged.  The industry must balance green initiatives with the demands of the consumer and with the various realities of manufacturing and a complex supply chain.  This must be done in a manner that is easy to understand, that balances practical realities and costs, and that, most importantly, allows the consumer to make a holistic and informed choice. 

The industry must control its own destiny with a proactive and holistic approach to environmental stewardship.  Failure to do so will leave the industry vulnerable to political correctness driven mandates that will artificially increase costs and drive American furniture manufacturing further into a position of non-competitiveness.  


Good work, it's pleasure to read your interesting posts. Waiting for more
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Awesome information, many thanks to the article writer. It’s understandable to me now, the effectiveness and importance is mind-boggling. Thank you once again and good luck!

Interesting topic. What makes a company 'green' more a matter of perspective than anything else. 3rd party certification groups who profit by offering up a stamp of approval just muddy the already tainted waters. Consumers love the idea of 'going green' you mentioned...but only to a degree that it does not rock the boat of convenience and the almighty...dollar. The consumer who demands to know the processes that are used to bring a product ultimately into their very living spaces is often looked at by society with an upturned eye and quietly ridiculed as an eccentric. This held true years ago before recycling became...popular...and part of American enviromental awareness. As the world grows smaller...and it is...the concept of what is 'green'...and its importance to all of us...will become a more 'popular' consumer is inevitable.

No matter how you look at it "green "means $$$'s.

You make a compelling point. Industry has more power than government at this juncture and considering the complexity of international supply chain, it's impossible to impose political correctness globally.

The ease of fee based certificates is frightening, and potentially devastating. The concept that going green is a nuisance expense for industry and something to work around by purchasing certification rather than manufacturing with environmentally responsible methods could forebode penny wise and pound foolish doom for the planet.

Is there a an industry leader who would serve as a model/leader to demonstrates how to UNDO established years of manufacturing methods? This is where it gets tricky; the manufacturers who started out green years ago are solid and the small new start ups with this approach have little challenges in generating feel good products for consumers with a decent profit.

The old school (pre-Green awareness) manufacturers who may have started as craftsmen in a studio and grew to international success, the manufacturers who had to hastily go to China to keep up with American consumers appetite for cheap stuff, these are the companies with the big challenge.

Inspiring companies that are simply trying to compete in an ever more competitive market to be self policing in regard to environmental stewardship is something that will take a motivation that is more rewarding than the simple
fee purchasing. Where will that motivation come from?

Hi Jim,

I couldn't help but read your blog and think..."yes, great minds do think alike". I'm always happy to read what people with common sense have to say.

If you feel the need for further validation, here's a link to the blog I posted back in may on the same topic.

Keep on sharing the message!

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