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Paper or plastic? Green or not green? And where did Earth Day go?

April 26, 2000
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So, what did you do to observe Earth Day 2000? Yeah, just what I thought. (I confess. Me too.)

For the record, Earth Day’s 30th anniversary was this past Saturday, April 22.

If you have any children in your household, chances are you were coloring boiled eggs for a certain small, furry animal to hide the following morning. Or, if you had to entertain family on Easter Sunday, chances are Earth Day did not even enter your mind this past Saturday. Or, perhaps you were participating in activities related to Passover.

If this is any comfort, you were not alone. No siree.

If my memory serves me correctly, Earth Day was established three decades ago to focus — at least for one day — the world’s attention to the planet we all live on. If we did not pay attention to Mother Earth, we were told, neglect will take its toll on this sphere, leaving us with not a good future.

Do we care? Well, it seems we talk out of both sides of our mouths. Yes, I’d say everyone cares, but not all are helping the cause, so to speak.

Advertising Age had an interesting article recently on this subject. In “It’s not trendy being green,” writer Jack Neff provides a thorough examination of the package-goods industry. Burt Flickinger, managing director with consultancy Research Marketing, gave a piercing summation of Americans.

“Consumers want to have a clean conscience, but at the same time they’re unwilling to pay more for environmentally friendly responsible products that carry a significant price-premium,” Flickinger was quoted. “It’s also a generation and a country driven by greed with unprecedented wealth. People are not willing to take the time to recycle and return products or make an extra shopping trip to a green store.”

And, here’s his killer: “It’s a very me-driven society.”

Look in the (green) mirror

As a contractor, do you try to sell “green” to your customers, both commercial and residential? Do you stress energy savings and how that can help — not only the environment, but this planet?

Look in the mirror. Answer the above questions honestly.

Of course, you might be selling green, but your customers are not biting. Yes, your hvacr solutions may save the environment and/or Mother Earth, but your solutions may cost more to the customer. And, let’s face it, money (more often than not) does talk. Never mind that you tell your customers that your solution may result in a higher initial cost, but that savings are down the road with a quick payback. Many customers, I know, will stop you when you start out, “It may cost a little more, but…”

You can call it what you want. What buzzword do you use: Lifecycle costing? De-engineering? Value engineering? Sustainable engineering? Total cost of ownership?

Not all customers are receptive to green. What to do, right? Do you keep pounding away, hoping that some customers along the way will understand the value of energy savings over the long haul?

In truth, this may be one solid solution. Changing a mindset is not easy, though. It never is. So you keep talking about the values in/of green, believing that knowledge is power and with that knowledge, the public will eventually sway to green.

Then again, maybe having the government mandate green may be the best solution? While I fear government stepping into this realm, I am not so certain that we humans will just voluntarily take care of this planet. As Hillary Clinton would say, it takes a village. And in the hvacr and building industries’ case, it will take contractors, engineers, architects, subcontractors, etc., working together, pushing for green. Without it …

Green means money, too

Two years ago on Earth Day, a certain hvacr manufacturer put on an event. In addition to showing off its new facility, this manufacturer wanted to alert the trade press (among others) that the hvacr industry should be addressing Mother Earth issues.

This manufacturer wanted all to believe that passing along environmental issues, for instance, may help the cause. It was noted that if the efficiency of every centrifugal chiller in the world were increased by only 0.08 kW/ton, power plant-generated greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by literally billions of pounds.

As I said then, and I’ll say it again, this is all fine and dandy and honorable. However, I still say that the majority of building owners could give a flying CFC about the environment and his/her part in making sure the world is a better place to live and breathe in. Throwing in the environmental aspect of the proposed project is not going to be the deciding factor, is it?

I’d like to think otherwise. However…

Don’t get me wrong. It’s good to inform customers about environmental impacts. But let’s face it: The only green the majority of building owners can relate to are George Washingtons and higher.

Which brings me back to the Advertising Age article. It’s not so much that consumers lost interest in the environment, said Jack Gordon, president of AcuPOLL Precision Research: It’s that they never really cared in the first place.

Paper or plastic?

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