Being Green Makes me Bitchy - Why Beige isn't Green

If it Looks and Acts Like an Elephant, you can't call it a Turtle.

So did you get my color reference in there? Yeah... I learned all my primary colors in Kindergarten. Well most of them anyway, still not a fan of mauve and what the hell is greige? Anyway, lets not get too off topic today.

[caption id="attachment_89" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="I figured something this size would be hurled at me. Courtesy of www.cepolina.com"][/caption]

First, I have to say I'm so glad the post from this morning (remember, me being bitchy?) took off like a storm and got a few of you to actually think about sustainable design. Personally I thought that I might be akin to a stoning whereby you all took sustainably harvested pebbles and aimed for my head (or my typing fingers... whichever you prefer).

So far the post has been up about 9 hours and I've only gotten one stone.  I'm OK with that.  I expected that I'd get at least one.  Luckily it is a stone from someone I respect in the Twitter-sphere so I'm good. No bruises or concussions just yet. (Though I may still need a morning vodka & soda to get this post going)

The stone related to whether or not I'm trying to force feed sustainable design to my clients and whether or not you as designers should do the same.  Let me preface by saying that I would never force feed  my clients (most of them are hungry enough because their kitchens have been in a state of disarray for a month and they've been eating take out for waaaay too long!).  Should you be telling them to use the Vetrazzo recycled glass slab in lieu of the totally awesome Onxy they've been swooning over since they saw it in AD three months ago?  NO.  Not at all.  Give your clients what they want.

HOWEVER, I can assure you that your clients are not telling you they don't want recycled cotton denim insulation, drywall made of natural materials, or a caulking material that is low in VOC.  I can also say that unless your client is a Sheik or Lord of something or other they're probably not telling that they don't want to save a few dollars on their energy bills and maybe might want to get that Federal tax rebate and stick it to the Proverbial Man (Wanna hear my JFK conspiracy theory?).  And if you do have clients telling you no then more power to them because they actually pay attention to details and give a damn about something more than aesthetics. I praise you for finding them.

[caption id="attachment_90" align="alignright" width="300" caption="What's in your wall?"][/caption]

So here's the 411. I happened to mention in a tweet that first, you as a designer must define what it means to be green. Simple enough right?  But here's the deal... if you do nothing more than recycle the cardboard from your appliance shipment and you repurpose a couch you're about as green as I am Canadian.  (The point there was that I've tracked my heritage to the 1400's and still no Canadian in my blood as much as I'd love be distantly related to one Ms. Meredith Heron @meredithheron, she's awesomeness x 10) So therein lies my title.  You can't design for beige and call it green. It just doesn't work that way.

Remember that saying from yore that God is in the Details? So is green.  Big Time. Seriously. HUGE. I'm not kidding you.  As designers you have to question your decisions.  Show of hands: how many of you have picked a freight company because their trucks ran on bio-diesel?  How many of you thought to ask? (FYI: use of biodiesel in lieu of Petroleum results in a 78.5% reduction in CO2 emissions; source: US Department of Energy) Ok so that's a hard one and I won't fault you for asking.  So an easy one then.  When working on a remodel and a new wall goes up... where is the wood harvested and is it FSC certified?  Better yet, did you look at cold rolled steel studs as an alternative?  Did you know that steel studs typically contain a minimum of 25% recycled content and that there are actually mills that can reach 50 to 60% recycled content?  I know it's boring stuff. I doesn't relate to what kind of marble on the counter or the cool hardware or the awesomesauce light fixture. BUT THIS IS REAL. This is what I'm talking about.  It's about applying sustainable tactics in areas where it isn't necessarily visible. About asking questions and making real time determinations based on the whole story and not just what has been advertised.  It's about integrating eco-friendly practices into your designs wherever and whenever you can.  It's about making green beige.

GreenBrandon Smith