The Greenwash Brigade

Shh – don’t tell anyone – these apartments are green!

Janne K. Flisrand Jun 9, 2008

Riding home the other night, I saw a big sign: “The First Green Apartments in Minneapolis.

I’ve been wondering what they meant – suspecting the worst. When I dug deeper, I found a green building problem that in my job I’ve seen is global in the residential green building world.

On their marketing website, I looked eagerly for details on what made them green. Not only did I find nothing, I didn’t even find claims that they were green.

The problem: people building green aren’t telling anyone, and if they do, they don’t provide any proof.

If you read the developer’s website, you learn that Blue will be the first privately-funded LEED certified apartment building in Minneapolis. (That “privately-funded” is very important, because there are five Minnesota Green Communities projects in Minneapolis, one of which is going for LEED certification – and will probably be done before Blue.)

They’ve recently added a link that I almost didn’t find – hidden on the front page is the Race 4 Green, but again, no more details. Is keeping what makes it green a secret a “clever” marketing ploy?

The secretiveness screams greenwashing. The basic lesson of hunting greenwash is to look for details and evidence; obscuring information or providing none is a loud indicator of guilt.

I can’t tell whether this is greenwashing or not. The only reason I suspect it might not be is personally knowing a couple members of the development team.

Why is it so hard for developers to market green homes effectively?

Here are my tips:
1: Tell customers what you are doing. How will it affect the occupant? How will it affect the environment?
2: How will buyers or renters know you’ve done what you said? Is it Energy Star certified? Forest Stewardship Council certified? How many gallons of water does it use, and how does that compare to “normal” faucets?

Why is that so hard?

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