Wednesday, May 9, 2012

It Ain't Easy Being Green (Or Is It?)

(Reprint of post from February 2011)

by Martin Lopez, ASID San Diego Eco Committee Member
Vice President of Marketing, Unique Carpets Ltd.
ASID Industry Partner

If you are not familiar with the hundreds of environmental organizations that exist as a “seal of approval,” doing their best to convince you that they’re the greenest, just know that by next year there will be at least 100 more.

Perhaps a term you should become familiar with is “greenwashing," which describes the deceptive use of green marketing to promote a misleading perception that a company's policies or products are environmentally-friendly. The term “green sheen” has similarly been used to describe organizations which attempt to show that they are adopting practices beneficial to the environment.

The practical side of anything that is truly natural and good for the environment is the simplicity of the concept. We look for it in what we eat and how we shop, and now your clients want you to do this for them in designing their homes.

According to PR Week, a nine-country survey found that 85% of consumers around the world are willing to change their consumption habits to make tomorrow’s world a better place, and over half would help a brand “promote” a product if a good cause were behind it. The study also found that, when choosing between two brands of same quality and price, social purpose affected consumers’ decision the most, ahead of design, innovation, and loyalty to brand.

Manufacturers have identified the marketability of claiming their environment-friendliness, but the pollution generated by misinformation has reached confounding proportions. If you are truly interested in the environment, then you owe it to yourself to beware of greenwashing.

When did fibers such as cotton, linen, silk, and wool become new? The journey to a better world starts with the smallest steps. If your mind goes numb trying to make sense of exactly what part of what you’re looking at is “recycled content,” then look for the simplest solutions.

Silk comes from silkworms, and while the process is labor intensive, isn’t it better to use people-power? Cotton comes from a shrubby plant that is a member of the Mallow family. We grow most of it on American soil, and its versatility and durability are common knowledge. Sounds pretty simple, don’t you think?

Linen is spun from the long fibers found just behind the bark of the flax plant. These cellulose fibers are spun for the production of linen thread, cordage, and twine, and create one of the most luxurious fibers you’ll ever touch.

Then there is wool, which comes from sheep. They grow a wool coat and once (sometimes twice) a year this wool coat is sheared off the animal by hand. The shorn wool coat is called fleece, which is then cleaned and processed into wool yarn, the benchmark of quality and beauty. It’s not expensive, just better, prettier, and the right choice for our future.

Studies show that properly maintained wool carpets actually have a beneficial effect on indoor air quality and people’s health. Here’s how: Wool carpets absorb, neutralize, and do not re-emit common pollutants such as nitrous oxides, sulfur dioxide, and formaldehyde. Additionally, wool attracts and holds airborne contaminates such as dust, dust mites, and pollen until they can be harmlessly vacuumed away. A major European respiratory study (2002) of nearly 20,000 people at 30 centers in 17 countries concluded that wool carpets in bedrooms (in lieu of hard surface floors) resulted in dramatic reductions in allergic and asthmatic symptoms.

So, the next time you catch yourself falling asleep reading the labels extolling the “features and benefits” of all the synthetic choices out there, do something natural, something beautiful, something smart. Choose natural fibers, which are better for your clients, better for the world, and require a lot less reading to convince yourself they’re the right choice.

Martin Lopez, Vice President of Marketing
Unique Carpets Ltd.
7360 Jurupa Ave. Riverside, Ca. 92504
Phone: 800 547-8266 Fax: 951 352-8140