Green is driving me crazy. The incessant nattering of a world hawking a green utopia has me up some nights doing research on products, practices, and legislation that promise to save me money, improve my life, and extend the life of the Earth. It’s not the color that has me seeking refuge in a rubber room. In fact, I have an old tin full of crayons and still mixed among the rest of the colors are about 18 shades of green. The problem lies in the definition of green or the lack thereof; and green’s definition is as multifaceted as the color shades in a large crayon box. What looks Pine Green to you may look more Asparagus Green to me and Caribbean Green, it actually looks blue. Apply that concept to the current green marketplace and it may be easier to understand why your customers don’t want anything to do with green products and why disappointment in their green investment often lurks just around the corner.

Clearing the Air

Much of the problem stems from goods manufacturers who at times get caught up in greenwashing. With no real regulation, green marketing often walks the line between consumer benefits and scare tactics. To make things worse, some of the selling apparatus got hold of these green marketing tactics and pushed them to a feverish pitch. Add in Al Gore’s two cents about global warming and a few scientific scandals, and consumers are pretty lucky if they purchase a truly green product that will benefit themselves and the planet. Call me crazy, but I think it is going to take a lot more than buying a few new light bulbs, installing highly efficient equipment, and making a few lucky green purchases before there will be any real evidence of atmospheric improvement. That is assuming that global warming is actually a problem and that cutting carbon emissions will have any effect on the assumed problem…but that is another editorial altogether.

Psychiatric Help 5¢

One problem that is not assumed is the confusion that green labeling and pitching seems to be causing in consumers. I propose a solution — stop selling green. Knowing that green products and promises can be ever changing, perhaps it is time to ask, “Is it good business to mount a green campaign?” That green campaign may be a boon in the moment, but as time passes and the green glow wears off, a lot of customers are more concerned that their pocketbooks aren’t getting any fatter and that you’re the contractor that convinced them to invest.

Before you get out the straightjacket, listen to the counter suggestion. Instead of making statements of how much money this unit will save over that unit, how many cars will be theoretically taken off the road, and how many phantom trees will be planted, perhaps contractors should stick with statements such as, “This equipment has been designed to require less energy usage than the previous models.” It sounds a lot like the current pitches being made, but there are subtle differences. In the statement above, the contractor is presenting the facts. There are no promises, no green posturing, and no save the planet emotions to navigate in choosing which system to have installed and when to replace or repair. As an HVAC industry member and a consumer, I like the idea of using less energy and saving money, but convincing me that I should spend the big bucks on a more efficient system because it is better for the planet is going to be a tough sell. Understanding that it will be less of a strain on the energy grid I can easily buy into.

Shades of Green

No matter the shade of green, there is value in selling products that are good for the environment and good for the consumer. The real danger comes in promising too much and delivering too little. It is also important that companies remain earnest in their product and service offerings. Some companies go to great lengths to make consumers think that they are trying to help them achieve better, more profitable, and more efficient living when in actuality, they are often more focused on selling their stuff.

There may be 18 shades of green in a large crayon box, but when it comes to defining customer benefits, it may be prudent for the green movement and the HVAC industry to seek out a true green definition and use it as intended. That way, my grandchildren’s crayon box will still have a Jungle Green crayon.

Publication date: 10/24/2011