25 November 2008

Vinyl window and door recycling paper offered

The American Architectural Manufacturers Association's Vinyl Material Council and the Vinyl Institute have issued a white paper on recycling vinyl windows and doors.

The paper includes lots of facts on the green qualities of vinyl, the ease with which it is recycled, case studies, and an effort to put some funding behind encouraging post-consumer recycling. As one would expect, given the sources of the paper, there is nothing here about the disadvantages or challenges posed by vinyl use. But if you can edit out the propaganda and posturing, there is a lot of good info in this free report and the associated docs. Check it out.

20 November 2008

Pres-elect keeps talking the talk

President-elect Barack Obama released a video message online addressing climate change issues, including the new green economy. A text account at the New Energy World Network summed up his remarks this way: "Obama reiterated his pre-election New Energy plan to invest $150bn over the next ten years to catalyse private efforts to build a clean energy future."

The president-elect himself said:
This investment will not only help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil, making the United States more secure, and will not only help us bring about a clean energy future saving the planet, but it also will help us transform our industries and steer our country out of this economic crisis by generating five million new green jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced.

"Transform our industries." Well, it will be very interesting to watch Obama put his plan into action, and to see how it affects the home channel industry.

19 November 2008

Green construction may triple in next five years

McGraw-Hill Construction has released survey results that paint a rosy picture of the future of the green building industry. "The value of green building construction starts was up five-fold from 2005 to 2008 (from $10 billion to $36-$49 billion), and could triple by 2013, reaching $96-$140 billion," according to a press release from the info services company, which also said:
McGraw-Hill Construction attributes green building’s rapid expansion to growing public awareness, an increase in government regulations, and recognition of bottom-line advantages. Since 2005, the perceived benefits of green building have increased and differentiated as people become more knowledgeable about green building. The decrease in operating costs is the most often cited benefit (13.6%, up from 8-9% in 2005), followed by the increase in building values (10.9%, up from 7.5% in 2005).

The 40-page survey report, Green Outlook 2009: Trends Driving Change, is available in a $250 PDF. Or you can just keep reading Home Channel News' Green Central and this blog for free. :-)

18 November 2008

The product you've all been waiting for

Sure, you're a gardener and a dog lover. And of course, an environmentalist. And you've been waiting for such a long time. Now, at last, you can have the perfect match-up for your two loves: the doghouse with a planter on top! Sure, you've seen the other guy's offering. But the makers of this one also have a real concern for the environment -- the "carbon pawprint," as they say, LOL! It's a little more than somewhat expensive -- but aren't your pets and plants worth it?

Women are more likely to buy eco-friendly products

The latest from NPD is its "Green 2008: Consumer Attitudes and Behaviors" study. The market research company says that more than half of consumers surveyed consider themselves extremely or very interested in environmentally-friendly products. The kicker -- women are more interested than men, by 57 percent to 47 percent. And NPD says that women are the ones who are doing the shopping, and who don't mind higher prices as much. According to Mark Delaney, director of NPD Group’s Home division:
In either scenario, manufacturers and retailers need to drive marketing and education efforts that will help the less-involved consumer understand the benefits of ‘green’ and what makes a product ‘green’.

Another key finding: green shoppers want energy-efficient items that save money. So make sure you market to women shoppers, and let them know which products are most cost-effective.
In a struggling economy, those products marketed as being environmentally-friendly and saving consumers money will be the products that stand the best chance of growth in the long run.

There's a lot more info in the press release (link to study, above), so check it out.

17 November 2008

New mold-resistant wallboard

Wallboard maker National Gypsum and seed company Syngenta have partnered to produce a new mold-resistant wallboard. Syngenta's Sporgard, a chemical product, is embedded in the XP Gypsum Board drywall line.
XP Gypsum Board panels consist of a specially treated, fire resistant, mold and moisture resistant gypsum core encased in heavy mold/mildew/moisture resistant, 100% recycled purple paper on the face and mold/mildew/moisture resistant paper on the back side.

For those looking to improve indoor air quality -- especially in a damp environment -- this might be something to consider.

Green retailer builds community with film night

Canadian green retailer ShopEco continues its "Film Night" series of eco-themed short movies and animations a week from this Thursday -- admission is free and there will be "light refreshments." According to the e-mail I got about the event and the films, "some are funny, others poignant, and all are informative." It's Thursday night, 27 Nov. 08 -- Thanksgiving to the Yanks, but a fun movie night to our neighbors in the Great White North.

I mention this not to tempt my readers in nearby Detroit and Grosse Pointe away from their pumpkin pie, but as a fantastic example of a retailer building up a loyal customer base -- while fostering a mindset disposed to buy the very products that the retailer sells. Yup, that's a cynical way to look at it; after all, some would call it "giving back to the community," and leave it there. But I think that this is a terrific example of how education and activism are important parts of a green business model.

14 November 2008

Editorial: Ho! Ho! Ho! This Green Giant is laughing all the way to the bank

Here's an editorial I wrote for a supplement to Home Channel News this week.

Home Depot is emerging as a leader in the environmental movement -- not as a crusader, but as a money-maker. And with the right strategy, vendors can make money selling green products to Home Depot customers, too.

On the operations side, Home Depot is using green initiatives to cut costs. Installing LEDs and new HVAC systems, Home Depot has cut energy consumption in its stores by 12 percent. The company has joined the Coalition for Responsible Transportation, pledging ito implement clean truck technologies. Measures such as these are putting more dollars on the bottom line.

And the company's Eco Options program, in which environmentally friendly products get singled out for promotion and labelling, is putting more on the top line. In its first year, sales of Eco Options products totalled more than $2 billion. As reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, one of Home Depot's few sales bright spots has been in basic maintenance supplies, especially environmentally friendly products. With more than 3,000 Eco Options products -- and with vendors doing their best to get their own products into the program -- Home Depot is positioning itself to last out the downturn.

But how do you sell your green product into Home Depot?

Jim Weaver, operations manager for BioLet USA, told me that getting his product -- composting toilets -- into the biggest box was "such a long process." But his persistence has paid off, and his story offers some insights for others trying to sell green products to Big Orange.

Biolet first approached Home Depot in the late ’90s, but the company wasn't ready for the product. Composting toilets were then too unknown. The eco-friendly system uses no water and needs to be emptied every two months under normal daily usage.

"It's an unusual product. Most people had not heard about it," said Weaver.

But by 2002, Home Depot called back -- the company was interested. Even then, it took five years -- including a successful test in Alaska -- to really roll out the product. Eventually Depot set up a drop-ship program, added the toilets to catalogs and the Web site, and now is adding them to charts of products in the plumbing aisles in stores.

Weaver said that getting into the Eco Options program was tough too -- because the toilets did not fit into any existing categories. Not energy efficient, not low-flush but no-flush, yet among the greenest products in the catalog.

"They did not know what to do with us, so eventually they created a category for us," said Weaver.
He has a few suggestions for vendors trying to sell green into Home Depot. "Be persistant. Remember they change buyers frequently. A buyer down the road may say yes. Get a track record on your product. Show you can sell through other venues. It is real hard to come in with a brand new product."

MaxLite's new "Faux Can" is another green product that's selling in Home Depot. The product is a fixture that looks like a recessed light but which uses a 25-watt CFL bulb to mimic a 75-watt traditional fixture, according to inventor and MaxLite vp David Shiller.

Getting into Home Depot took a contact and the right pitch, according to Shiller. "Our vp for consumer sales had previously worked for Cooper Lighting. He and I had a meeting with the recessed lighting buyer at Home Depot and showed him the product and reviewed the value proposition. In short, we convinced the buyer it was new, different and worth a test."

Home Depot put the lights into the Eco Options program, but the vendors didn't push that in the sell. "Eco-Options was not discussed," said Shiller, "but Energy Star, utility rebate programs and California Title 24 (the California building energy code) were discussed as drivers and target markets."

But with so many vendors seeing the green light, how do you stand out? I do suggest that greenwashing your product will not work. Being able to recycle the box your product came in is not enough. Reports say that some paint brush makers are touting their plastic handle brushes -- because they don’t use wood. But the wood-handle brush makers are proud that their handles are not made from plastic, a petrochemical. Those "approaches" are not going to work. But bring a true green product to Home Depot, one that stands out in the market and really offers environmental value, and with persistance, you might get somewhere.

13 November 2008

So long, Sheetrock?

Ecolect has an interesting post on a new green product that may replace gypsum board.

Dec 1 Update: Inhabitat has an article on this too.

I'm not fat! I'm just big-boned!

I missed this Shelton Group survey when it came out a couple weeks ago, but it brings the funny, so I don't feel bad mentioning it late (that's a link to a PDF).

Seems that although the government has documented more people using more electricity, when you ask folks if their energy usage is up, they say no! Here's the funny part: "Most consumers either blamed kids in the home for increased electricity usage or said they did not think they used more electricity because they now had no kids in the home." LOL! As the Shelton people put it, "Those Darn Kids!"

By the way, I blogged about another Shelton survey a couple weeks ago.

10 November 2008

New Web site offers articles, product advice

Eco Home Resource is a new Web site offering products, articles, news, and more. It is aimed at the consumer, not toward businesses. According to founder Karen Moore,
We’re beginning to see people taking a holistic view of their home, from a physical, psychological and emotional point of view, and a connection to the environment is an integral part of this. Eco Home Resource is your one-stop shop for relevant and helpful information on how you can improve the health of your home as well as that of your planet.

Interesting site, with lots of info. A little heavy on the product pushing, but I guess that's kind of the point. Check it out.

07 November 2008

Greenbuild 2008 preview

I blogged about Greenbuild 2008 two months ago, but a few more news items on the conference have crossed my desk since then.

And per the event's Web page, South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Laureate, will be the keynote speaker. The event runs Nov. 19 to 21 in Boston.

04 November 2008

Windmills you won't mind

Seems like one of the big problems in wind turbines for energy generation is that they are loud and tend to shake anything on which they are mounted. Well, Cascade Engineering has announced its new quiet and vibration-free Swift Wind Turbine, for use on houses and commercial buildings. It's not for everybody -- the company suggests renting equipment to measure the wind force in your area -- but it runs at only 35 decibels. A quick search on Wikipedia tells us that normal talking is 40 to 60 decibels, and a car operates at 60 to 80.

According to the company's release, the product is UL-certified for safety and can pay for itself within three years.

"Faux" fixture mimics recessed lighting

MaxLite's new "Faux Can" is a fixture that looks like a recessed light but which uses a 25-watt CFL bulb to mimic a 75-watt traditional fixture, according to inventor and MaxLite vp David Shiller. Other green features: it doesn't punch a hole through the ceiling, for better HVAC efficiency, and it requires fewer materials compared with traditional recessed light.

The product has garnered several awards, and is on sale at 250 Home Depots.