Green products are gaining in popularity but what exactly makes a product green, besides the words and green packaging? Green packaging first showed up in the grocery store, with words like healthy choice and the focus on green homes has accelerated over the last few years, so it's time to understand what we need? or want.
The idea behind green products, green homes and green living is really pretty simple – we want to reduce (or eliminate where possible) our impact on the environment. We want to do this in ways that don't pollute the environment and protect scarce resources so they'll be there for our children, and our children's children.
Green Products Mean Different Things to Each of Us
An environmentalist or avid gardener will look at green products very differently than a manufacturer or builder. Those who produce products will evaluate green opportunities very differently than consumers. The challenge is … we all share the same environment and need to find a balance between producers (agriculture and manufacturing) and consumers (government, business and people like homeowners), to preserve our environment while continuing to bring better products to market in a highly competitive, global marketplace.
Green Products Within the Product Lifecycle
Green products for manufacturers, focus on the materials used, the processes used to harvest and/or manufacture green products along with packaging and distribution which are controlled by companies although the web is certainly altering how we buy things.
For consumers, green products start with an awareness of green concepts. Where previously price might have been the top priority in making purchase decisions, educated consumers are now looking at the cost of using and maintaining products, and to a lesser degree, disposal (learn more about deconstruction). land how using (maintaining and disposing of) the products will affect the environment with respect to energy, water, air quality, light and sound.
Green Products From Manufacturing Perspective
- Products made from materials and products that would otherwise be discarded, i.e. reusing pre-consumer waste from manufacturing processes, agricultural waste or recycling materials and products.
- Products that don't reduce natural resources, i.e. use less water, replenish supplies by planting trees to replace what's been harvested and even better, using fast growing resources like bamboo.
- Products that avoid toxic emissions because materials are natural (no pesticides) and no chemicals are introduced during manufacturing processes so the impact during construction or demolition is minimal.
|Distribution doesn't fit naturally into either the producer or consumer side of the lifecyle. There are environmental impacts from shipping materials to China for lower labor costs, and shipping finished products back to the US marketplace. Some green initiatives promote buying local products, i.e. wood for framing, flooring, etc that is harvested within the region where a house is built.
Green Products Consumers Want to Buy
- Products that save energy or water compared to predecessor products, i.e. buying Energy Star products or for water efficient products, the new program is called Water Sense, from the EPA.
- Products that require less maintenance and last longer, lowering the cost of replacement products and disposal when products are no longer used.
- Products that help make homes healthier and safer, i.e. low or no VOC paints or plants that remove pollutants.
How committed are you to buying green products?
Credit for the product life cycle illustration goes to the University of Alberta, Office of Sustainability.