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Green products or "greenwashed"?

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It’s pretty clear to even a casual observer that “green” is king. Wherever you turn, it seems everyone in the home building, remodeling, home improvement, design, architecture and even political worlds is talking about energy efficiency and sustainability.

But sometimes, those claims of environmental friendliness aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Some claims are simply misleading, while others don’t take into consideration the bigger picture — like a product’s distribution process or the operation of a manufacturing plant.

Fortunately, a variety of resources on the Web can help inform consumers who are concerned about the environmental impact and safety of the products they’re buying.

Good Guide rates food items and other household products for three factors: health, environment and societal impact (which means they’re looking for more than just “green”). BuyGreen lets people shop for several consumer and commercial products that they’ve identified as environmentally friendly. The Greenwashing Index analyzes advertisements and judges the authenticity (or bogusness) of green claims.

An article from Metropolis magazine asked a panel of architects for their thoughts on what makes a product sustainable. Their answers demonstrate the all-encompassing nature of green:

What makes a product sustainable?

MARTINKUS: Number one on my list is classic design and quality construction. Something that is well designed, something that’s timeless and not trendy, is something you keep for decades. Or if you don’t keep it, it can be sold or donated so that some-one else can reuse it.

LEISEROWITZ: We look at the entire life cycle of the product. That means taking into account everything from extraction or harvesting to manufacture, transport, and installation. But it doesn’t stop there. We also consider the footprint associated with maintaining products and then deconstructing them at the end of their useful life.

CLARK JANSEN: Sustainability encompasses social as well as environmental factors. I avoid using products that may be made using questionable labor practices or in conditions that are hazardous to workers. If a product and its manufacture are contributing positively to a community, that’s ideal.

RUNNING: In very simple terms: product + application + intended lifespan = level of sustainability.

With an array of long-lasting, well-built, ENERGY STAR-certified products; a variety of waste-reduction and forestry-management processes; involvement in several environmentally focused organizations; and a couple of nice green-related awards, we think Marvin’s green efforts hold up rather well.

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