How do you know what's green and what's not?
In a recent interview on Green Talk Radio, I was asked, "How do you know who's green and who's not?" My answer was that it was a moving target, and that for the most part there isn't one overarching yardstick for what is and isn't green, or as green as they claim to be. Or even what being green means. A few, like the USDA'sNational Organic Program are widely seen as credible and authoritative. But what about every day things you buy in the store? Office supplies? Clothing? There at this point doesn't appear to be a flag bearer helping people make green choices with assurance, that covers all aspects of a broad range of products.
But that may change.
BuyGreen, an online purveyor of everything from sporting goods to building supplies, decided they wanted to create a transparent set of standards for what they sold by which to judge for yourself if you think what you're considering buying meets your standards for being green enough.
What they didn't expect was to have a companies they carry start asking them if they could apply a BuyGreen certification sticker on their products. Sticker? What sticker? Then they recently had a Fortune 50 company that's working on a new retail offering ask if the BuyGreen standard could be incorporated into it. So it would appear they're on to something here.
What about their standard is attracting such attention, what lessons does it give to others seeking to create one themselves, and how does it benefit you, the consumer?
First, it's simple. And it's comprehensive. Which means that it meets the needs of both those who want a quickly understood rating, and those that want to get into more depth. It's broken down into intuitively understandable categories: Source Material, Manufacturing, Use, and Recycling. Basically, what's it made of, how's it made, how is it used, and when you're done with it, how recyclable is it? It's given a score of 1 to 100.
For some, merely seeing that score next to the product will be enough to make a decision. But what if you want to know more? Click on a link, and they go into extensive, yet still clear and easily understandable analysis of the product and its impact on the planet. Whether you're an individual seeking to make conscious buying choices, or a business buyer that was told to make the office "go green" without much else to go on, BuyGreen's standards seem to effectively meet these needs.
So will you start seeing BuyGreen labels on products in store shelves soon? I'd certainly hope so. And if the interest shown in that being the case by businesses, who are the ones most invested in a quality rating with integrity being put on their products is any indication, it sounds like they do too.
Readers: What green certification standards or other ways do you see out there helping make going green an easier, more knowledgeable, transparent experience?
Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio School of Management in San Francisco. His overarching talent is "bottom lining" complex ideas, in a way that is understandable and accessible to a variety of audiences, internal and external to a company.