Mike Murphy

The new buzzwords that you can add to your green vocabulary are carbon footprint and sustainability. My colleague, Peter Powell, who is quite the refrigeration guru, pointed out to me recently that the words green and sustainable are interchangeable in today’s buzz factory. It would seem that green is simply becoming jargon for sustainability, a loftier sounding vision.

A question I have always had about the relatively new green movement is: Where is the green in green? How can HVACR contractors actually profit from supporting the green rally? At the risk of sounding crass and capitalistic, the green movement won’t survive unless it can gain commercial success in the marketplace. In other words, if people can’t make money doing it, it’s just another fad.

But, far be it from me to bash the greening of America; I even support things like high-efficiency system solutions for buildings and residences alike.


There are certainly those that can make a very good argument for the benefits and even the profitability of following the green path. I have met a few mechanical contractors who are uncovering great business opportunities because building owners are falling all over themselves to get a plaque on the wall that certifies the green sensitivity of their companies. But, things may be getting a little out of control.

Today, it seems as if everything is turning green, and people are beginning to question what that really means. In the soon-to-be released Energy Pulse study of U.S. consumers by the Shelton Group, results suggest a rising skepticism of companies that are talking the green talk but not walking the green walk. Suzanne Shelton, CEO of Shelton Group said, “Companies face a real ‘prove it’ mentality with consumers who are growing more sophisticated every day about what gives a company valid green credentials.”

Green wash is the term used to describe press releases and statements being made by companies that they are green or organic, without statistics or some baseline for measurement. It appears that consumers are beginning to compare the real science of green with the more cosmetic treatment of painting everything with a verdant brush.


Another craze that industries are likely to glom onto is carbon footprints. In this new world of environmental consciousness and sustainability, you will discover that you can map your very own carbon footprint. A carbon footprint is the total amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases emitted over the full life cycle of a product or service.

Because I live in a Continental Airlines hub city, I fly their friendly skies quite often. To my surprise, I recently discovered that I can join Continental and their partner Sustainable Travel International “in helping to protect the environment by purchasing carbon offsets during the booking process. You can calculate the carbon footprint of your planned itinerary, then offset the emissions by investing in high-impact projects designed to reduce greenhouse gases.”

Now, I know that Continental is upgrading to a more fuel-efficient fleet and that they, like other airlines, attempt to squeeze every mile out of a barrel of jet fuel. But, calculating my carbon footprint: Is this high-pressure green selling? I just want to get on the plane, fall asleep for a little while, and wake up before my ear drums burst. I don’t really care about investing to offset the additional emissions created as a result of my sorry butt being stuck on another delayed flight.

Am I supposed to feel compelled to help the airline industry so they can brag about their green efforts? I’m already a confirmation number in their system, I’m not sure that I want to be part of their carbon footprint.

Will contractors start plotting a home’s carbon emissions and then suggest to the owner that they should invest in a high-efficiency system to reduce greenhouse gases? If the home is too high on emissions, perhaps the owner can trade carbon credits with a neighbor, much the way a nation is allowed to do. (Try to figure out the net effect of that system.)

Call me unpatriotic if you want. I’m sure that at some point I will also be shamed enough to start putting plastic milk jugs into a blue plastic bag which should be placed next to my green plastic trash can.

Where carbon footprinting goes in the HVAC industry is anybody’s guess; but, the green wagon had better begin to gain some real traction or consumers will increasingly doubt every green claim that every company makes.

Murphy’s Law: Be careful what you promise.

Publication date:10/08/2007