Should professionals promote the green movement?


Featured Question by Second Use: The green movement is everywhere we turn: organic food, eco fashion, sustainable homes. It is growing more and more popular, but there is still a major issue with pollution and waste.

Home professionals have a large network of contacts, such as clients and suppliers. Since professionals reach a large amount of people and are in the position to make suggestions, are they obligated to support and promote the green movement?

Why We’re Asking:

Elena Velkov of Second Use in Seattle suggested our 10th Blog-Off question. Second Use is a resource for contractors and homeowners to recover reusable building materials from their remodeling and demolition projects. To keep waste out of landfills and protect architectural heritage, Second Use salvages old building materials from the Puget Sound area and resells them at a discount.

We asked Elena what inspired the question. She explained:

“Second Use feels responsible for the condition of the planet future generations will inherit. We take pride in doing our part to reduce waste and keep the air clean.”

Elena wanted to know if other organizations and professionals felt this way, especially if they are in the green space. We at eLocal weren’t sure ourselves, so we’re turning to the experts for help and we’re asking them to weigh in right here in the comments. What does this mean? Homeowners will get the raw, unedited answers directly from the experts. It also gives you, the homeowners, an opportunity to ask the professionals for clarification directly. This is the forum to learn more about the reason professionals do or do not support the green movement.

So experts, it’s time to weigh in:

Do professionals have an obligation to support and promote the green movement?

Since home professionals are in the position to potentially influence a large group of people (their clients), do you think they have an obligation to evangelize going green?
Do you think there is “pressure” to do this? If so, do you think this pressure is justified?
How do you incorporate green suggestions into your business? Do you “practice what you preach” in your own daily lives?

Experts, post your answers in the comment field below!


  1. To obligate means to bind or compel someone to do something and takes on a legal or moral connotation. A little harsh for me and perhaps offensive to other professionals and homeowners as well. On the other hand, many homeowners are confused and looking for clarification on what it really means to make their home ‘greener’. A home professional that is well versed and prepared to present and discuss the features and benefits of making a home a greener place to live in will be assisting that homeowner with achieving their personal goals pertaining to creating a safer, healthier, more environmentally sound living space. That certainly lends itself to supporting and promoting the green movement as well as providing excellent customer service and making a positive impact!

  2. No-professionals do NOT have an obligation to support/promote any cause, trend or movement. A business owner/professional should focus on THEIR company’s mission statement & what they excel at. Their only “obligation” is to service their clients with products, services & information that they say they have/contract to do.

    While my company, Bante Design LLC, DOES focus & implement “green/eco-friendly” design principles it is by MY choice, not dictated by a trend/movement. If a company/contractor implements something “just because” or mis-represents their marketing message, products/services or expertise to jump on a trend, they are doing a DIS-service to their clients & their company’s mission statement if they themselves don’t believe in it.

    Bante Design LLC IS a “green” company, both on a corporate level & the design that we create for our clients. Creating a “healthy home” is part of our mission statement & design philosophy. This is integral to our company because it is a passion of mine & how I live my life personally. The “pressure” comes from government legislation/codes & from some marketing consultants.

  3. First, I admire Elena’s business and I try to use recycled/salvaged materials whenever possible.

    However, designers have only one major obligation–to give the clients what they want in the most well-designed, well-executed and value-conscious manner possible.

    In the process, if you believe in green methods you certainly can try to educate and suggest. But the final decisions are made by the client. If they want to save energy or to guzzle energy, it is their decision.

    However, in most cases an appropriate green alternative can be presented in such a way as to persuade the client. However, do not BS the clients. Make certain that you are offering them the best value and best fit for their project.
    Yes, we live what we preach. I authored the concepts of Green Freedom and of vertical greening. Our 1856 historic ranch has been featured in numerous major publications for our conservation projects. We were also nominated for the highest award in Texas for land stewardship. Mark Anderson featured my part in the first Earth Day in his March 2010 article for National Geographic. So yes, I practice what I preach.

  4. The simple answer is yes. Be they do so independently or before it becomes a matter of necessity – either by law or demand – its time to move forward and embrace a sense of sustainability.

    In English my company means “Green Life” but I avoid the word “green” as I say in my marketing materials – green comes in many shades and you must find your own shade.

    The necessity for moving into sustainability comes simply from the lack of fossil fuels, from the increasing pollution in our air, water and soil and from the lack of land in which to deposit our waste.

    Take out the equation of “Climate Change” or “the future” and simply ask yourself if you are living sustainably? Energy costs are rising, food costs are rising, the seasons and weather are changing, finances and economy of services are also changing and global population is rising putting demands on it all. If you are the lucky to find yourself in a place where none of that matters you are also of a small percentage that your behavior does not have a larger impact; however as a citizen of the world to be one who practices good citizenship. So your actions can have positive and negative reactions. Ask yourself what is important to you? Then you can make the decision on how green you want to be.

    Going “green” is what I advocate its just simply being responsive and responsible to the environment which you live. Start small, think local and the act will undoubtedly be global.

  5. Professionals do not have an obligation to support and promote the green movement. It’s nice and it’s a good thing, but to say that a professional is obliged to do so is maybe pushing it a little.

    As an electrical company, improving our service is our goal. For some customers, this implicitly means “going green.” Providing customers with the option to “go green” is definitely something that Mr. Electric aims to do. However, to deny customers other options would be foolish.

    Oftentimes “going green” and providing quality service can coincide. Typically, “going green” pushes a more energy efficient approach. The more efficient we can make our systems, the better the product for our customers. In these instances, “going green” is a fortunate by-product of improving the quality of our services.

    Do professionals have an obligation to support and promote the green movement? No. Do professionals have an obligation to provide the best service possible and continually improve their product, which may involve energy efficiency? Yes.

  6. I think it depends on the business. I am a sustainability consultant so of course, this is what I do; however, the biggest turn-off to clients is preaching. If your company promotes a certain aspect of the green industry or is well versed in that area, then offering a greener alternative is totally acceptable. Many times, clients may not even know about an alternative. Educating our clients is the first step.

    That being said, if you are going to offer green alternatives, make sure you are knowledgeable yourself and not simply jumping on the band wagon. Be aware that there are varying degrees of green so you should be well versed in all aspects (light green to dark green.) There is so much green washing out there, that no wonder the public doesn’t trust “green.”

    I do believe we can educate our clients but in the end, the client makes the final decision.

  7. The question is a bit like asking a doctor whether or not they support healthy living…the short answer is yes! It is also a bit like asking whether or not professionals should support creating safe buildings. Again, the answer is yes. The way I look at it, being “green” is an integral part of what I do and is not something I have to turn into a “brand”. Accordingly, I have chosen to not make it a specific item I promote. It is but one of many aspects of design that matter. It fits in right along other design priorities such aesthetic quality, safety, functionality and durability. All of these are “promoted” as a natural part of the design discourse with my clients.

  8. You might think GreenHomes America would offer nothing but pure “greenness” for our customers and cry out from the rooftops trying to convert the masses. We work darned hard to educate consumers. But we temper it with focused and realistic goals. We’re home improvement specialists, not public transportation or organic farming experts.

    “Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing the right thing.” ~Isaac Asimov.

    We do offer “greenness” for our customers. That said, there are times when our recommendations for a homeowner might not align with what others consider green. And it’s not just about what materials you choose. Healthy and safe, energy efficient and long lasting solutions to homes are what we promote. These are also important green attributes.

    In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current. ~Thomas Jefferson

    Taking a whole-house approach, we have the practical ability to reduce most homes’ energy use by 50%, and by pushing things, by up to 80%. We think almost every home should aim for significant reduction to perform better. But what if they can only afford the first step, rather than the whole enchilada? What if they only want to make a few improvements rather than everything possible? What if, to correct a health and safety issue, we actually have to increase energy use? These are easy questions for us to answer. As long as we make our customers’ homes better, safer, more comfortable, or more energy-efficient, we see it as the right thing to do.

    Our obligation is to give customers good information and help that act on it. Spending a lot of time trying to push homeowners to recycling, riding their bikes to work or supporting local farms isn’t something we’re good at. We like these things, but we’re neither the right nor the most effective messenger. As a company we have to pay our employees, pay our rent, and keep our own (fluorescent) lights on to start another day and save more energy in another home. We realize we can’t do it all, and we’re comfortable in that skin.

    Do we practice what we preach? In our own homes, many in our company are truly pushing the envelope of what’s possible in home energy upgrades. At work we just completed a lighting upgrade in our Syracuse office. Despite that fact that we’re in leased property, we’re working with our landlord to improve the overall efficiency of the building. We recycle. We know we can do even better, and we continue to find ways to do just that. And that’s the right path forward.

  9. Professionals are obligated to understand the products they sell or install and their proper application. Period. However, if they want to stay competitive in this construction/real estate market they had better get onboard with the consumer’s interest in sustainability. They have to be able to talk to consumers intelligently and in a way that consumers will relate to and understand. That is the biggest challenge that professionals face when it comes to green building dialogue.

    There is pressure to get with the green movement. Sadly, many in the building industry actually resent and resist that pressure. Visit some homebuilder networks and it will be clear how deep this resentment runs. But, no, I do not believe there is any “obligation.” As stated above, the obligation is to cultivate expertise to whatever level of green construction they are comfortable with — and that probably means at least being comfortable with Energy Star requirements. “Evangelize” is a strong word and there is a significant portion of the construction industry that will bristle at the word; at a certain point, it becomes counterproductive to talk about green building in this way.

    However, the pressure is justified simply because lousy construction has become so accepted, and consumers are none-the-wiser. They don’t know how to evaluate quality construction and the industry is so full of bad contractors that the problem has really gotten out of hand. Bad construction leads to an endless cycle of waste (energy, water, and material waste) and all of this leads to declining property value. Just consider what an undetected leak and subsequent mold damage does to a home. So, YES, the pressure is justified from homeowners/consumers who have every right to want to protect their investments. They ultimately pay the price for bad construction.

    As far as implementing green in my business, I always speak from the homeowner’s perspective. Energy efficiency, sustainability, and IAQ can be very abstract terms when talking to regular (who, let’s face it, are the ones that actually drive the demand for green building). I always begin with real life scenarios–things that homeowners can relate to. So, if I’m going to talk about a plumbing distribution system that saves water, I’m not going to start with technical terms that homeowners are unlikely to understand. I’m going to look the woman of the house in the eye, and say, “Don’t you hate it when you go to wash the make-up off your face at night and have to watch all those gallons of water go down the drain while you wait for the water the heat up?” Literally, I’ve used this in countless conversations when describing the benefits of a central manifold distribution system. Each and every time the woman rolls her eyes and nods. They GET this type of approach. It hits them where they live–literally.

    Humans react negatively to waste of any kind, but you have to translate the cost of that waste in a way that is meaningful to them personally — as parents, as people who pay the utility bills, as homeowners who have to face off with a contractor regarding problems. You must put people in a scene with which they are familiar. Then it isn’t an abstract green conversation; it’s a common sense, problem-solving conversation.

    I definitely practice what I preach. I own a very green home, which is likely to be LEED certified later this year. It’s not a small home, but an upper middle class suburban home that is also very energy and water efficient (toilets, lights, hvac, insulation, you name it!) I also make a point of only buying domestically made (or used furnishings). Supporting local/domestic businesses is very high on my list of initiatives.

  10. In my opinion, yes, home professionals are the best advocates for helping homeowners and renters to go green and obliged to support the green movement.

    My firm, Use What You Have Interiors, was the first interior design firm to promote the green movement, since we opened our doors. As an interior redecorator, I have helped thousands of people to switch to CFLs and recycle and repurpose furnishings they had planned to toss, since my firm was founded in 1981. This was before the green movement had become as popular as it is today. Now it is all the more important to go green because so many people don’t have the funds to buy a lot.

    By showing my clients how to use what they have properly and in fresh new ways, I’ve helped them to appreciate how much better their homes can look in hours, without spending money on new purchases. Since I have been doing this for 30 years I don’t feel any additional pressure to promote going green today, yet I think a lot of my clients are a lot more interested in learning ways they can be more eco-conscious and now ask for more green solutions.

    Yes, I practice what I preach. To me, the Use What You Have/ green mindset translates to every aspect of home life. I also founded the Interior Redecorators Network which has members in more than 100 cities across North America, so that we could spread the word about the Use What You Have system and going green.

  11. Obligated is a very harsh word. My belief is that green is now a market, not a movement particularly in certain segments such as energy efficiency. When sold right contractors can provide better service to their clients when including green products and services in their job proposals and make more money. At the same time when done right clients can benefit from government financing, utility rebates, etc which lowers their overall costs.

    In terms of pressure I agree this is an issue. The green marketplace is very politicized and will soon be regulated.

  12. I truly believe that professionals are obligated to promoting the green movement, this is because Going ‘green’ is no longer a choice, it’s our responsibility. That’s why it’s so important to try and do the small things that can help change the outlook of the planet. Because home professionals are in the best position to influence their clients, it is their responsibility to bring awareness to the homeowner about the potential negative impacts on the environment and possible alternatives to this as well.

    However, I do not believe ‘pressure’ exists – after all, professionals are not obligated to incorporating green suggestions. This perception is more self imposed and will change from professional to professional depending on how genuine their beliefs are towards the cause.

  13. Absoluteuly not, It’s a matter of whether it’s in your business plan. But if you believe in the triple bottom line – people, planet, profit – then you’ll probably be doing so as you integrate your business into other existing systems.

    Knowledge is power, and those who understand building technology and the real opportunities at hand for energy conservation have a moral obligation to disseminate that knowledge.

    I do feel there is pressure, but ONLY THE PRESSURE EXERTED BY A TIRED PLANET!

    For example, we show clients how to minimize their impacts as an integral part of the design process. For any given client, we take into consideration the client’s building site and its characteristics, programmatic needs, budget, and green goals. Sometimes we have lcients who want a net zero energy home. Some are on a budget. For a project on a budget, there are many many green features that can be integrated into the design to make it the best it can be.

    We personally integrate green practices into our lifestyles by riding bikes and having a passive solar home.

  14. My answer to your questions would be a qualified yes. Home professionals have a responsibility to stay current with trends and technologies, and a professional who does not advise their clients on these matters is doing a disservice. The president of the appraisal institute stated that properties that are not green will soon be functionally obsolete. A home professional has to assist owners in making prudent long-term decisions to retain a property’s value.

  15. It is the obligation of the home designer, architect, or interior designer to present design solutions that are in the best interest of our clients. Various green products and construction techniques are not only good for the environment but also create healthier buildings and reducing energy costs. Saving energy and healthier environments in which to live and work are definitely in my clients best interest.

    There is pressure from the media since “green” is the new buzzword. There is not a lot of pressure coming from our clients. Green design is still considered more expensive. We try to educate our clients in the value and ROI of green design and let them make an educated decision.

    Most of the pressure stemming from the media is unjustified. It takes a lot of research to actually determine the “greenness” of products and materials. It is way to easy to place a “green” tag on a product for advertising purposes.

    As far as incorporating green suggestions into your business: Education, education, education….. It is our job as design professionals to keep abreast of new materials, products, and construction techniques. We educate our clients in the value and ROI of green design and let them make the final decision.

    We practice what we preach as much as possible. We recycle all the plastic, glass, aluminum, cardboard, and paper that our home and office generates. When we remodeled our office, we used bamboo flooring (renewable resource) and low VOC paint.

  16. I agree 100% with Steve Robinson @ Axios Architecture. Environmentally responsible design is of course an obligation for any one engaged in designing the built environment! The difference now versus thirty years ago is that building professionals are armed with greater knowledge of the impact of our work on the environment and there are a myriad of new products that have been developed to deal with the negative impacts. In my business I have found that the branding of “green” as a movement or trend can actually be a turn-off to clients. I look forward to a point in the future when sustainable design is universally and unanimously regarded as simply responsible design. That is the point at which we will be able to make the biggest strides in reducing the negative impact of our work on the environment and, consequently, the people that live in it.

  17. Yes, I do think we have an obligation to promote green design. I think everyone needs to do their part in the green movement. Unfortunately, it is not what motivates my clients. My clients are still driven by budget. I have noticed the manufacturers of products working hard at becoming certified green and that is due to the political push in that direction. Having more products available to choose from helps me as a professional designer and the owner of, my home furnishings site, to offer environmentally friendly product, YEAH!

  18. I think professionals need to be responsible when it comes to selling green products. There are a lot of greenwashing in real estate and as a home stager, I see a lot of that. Builders will buy cheap bamboo that use toxic glue and call it green flooring, which consumers can mistakenly think that’s what “green flooring” mean. There are movements right now to change the MLS system to identify real green features and to curb those greenwashers. I think as an industry, we need to be responsible about the message we send to general public.

    In general, I feel that real estate as an industry is not very green at all (which is why I started EcoJoe to hopefully raise awareness on being green in real estate; It’s a small token but it’s a great icebreaker. In general, I find green real estate education is just not sexy to sell to real estate people. But something like EcoJoe that can get a chuckle out of people can start the conversation about being green.). Most sellers do not want to invest in green features to sell. They generally reach for the lowest hanging fruits, like putting in CFLs or buying energy efficient appliances. Many house demos are still being directly shipped to landfill instead of sorting for materials that can be reused. I definitely think there should be some pressure to push for green awareness. We spend a tremendous amount of time indoors, it doesn’t make sense to only push for toxic materials to finish the home just because they are cheap. In the long run, cheap is actually expensive.

  19. As a decorator/home stager, my “green” colour decks are the first ones that I show to homeowners when assisting them in selecting paint colour. I explain to them the benefits of using low VOC paints.

    That being said, I don’t feel obliged to take on the role of promoting the green movement. The final decision has to be that of the homeowner. It’s their money being spent, therefore, they are the ones that have to be happy with the outcome of the project. If the homeowner wants to use a different product, it’s their right to do so.

    As far as ‘practicing what you preach’, I have used low VOC paints for my last few painting projects at home and have been very happy with the results.

  20. Whether or not a builder, remodeler, or design professional promotes the green movement is optional based on their client, the project, the investment (budget), and their own values and beliefs. It is inappropriate to obligate or require professionals to promote the green movement and instead it is wiser to provide education both professionally and for consumers to adopt the desired values that will serve and protect the earth. Until recycling becomes law (and it is in some cities) and green is a legal issue, professionals are likely to follow their clients rather than lead them to green.

    As a designer, I do make a point of asking about my client’s preferences, eco values, and sensitivities. It is my job to honor those to the best of my ability and within their prescribed investment. If green is a fit, I promote it, if not, then I back off of it.

  21. German Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “the ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.” The answer to your question, “Do Professionals have an Obligation to Support & Promote the Green Movement” is a moral one. This writer, a proud husband and father of two and member of the Global community, most assuredly believes that professionals like me as a REALTOR, and others involved in real estate, construction, building, remodeling, development, etc. have an obligation to get behind the GREEN movement. American wealth and real estate; it’s a combination that has thrived for decades. More Americans have their wealth in real estate than any other investment. Real estate, therefore, is Main Street. Main Street – just walk down one today — is Americana. Do you love America? Truly love your country? Do you love your real estate investments — your wealth — your ability to retire more comfortably? If you love America, like I and others love America – then you – and ALL others in our communities who love America — must love GREEN, and live GREEN — for without a GREEN revolution in this country, WE lose — America loses — American businesses lose – American citizens lose – the path we have chosen, the path of waste, the path of consumerism, the path of the ME Generation, is no longer sustainable… no longer sustainable if you wish to live in an America like the one we have lived in — and have welcomed the world too — for generations upon generations upon generations. GREEN is the answer, GREEN delivers profit, GREEN delivers jobs, and GREEN delivers a better quality of life. The ideals, principles and values that coincide with GREEN and living a sustainable, healthy and productive life are ones where money will be made and shared by all, profits will be generated and our country’s economy will hum like it has never hummed before. As Dylan once wrote,
    “Come senators, congressmen
    Please heed the call
    Don’t stand in the doorway
    Don’t block up the hall
    For he that gets hurt
    Will be he who has stalled
    There’s a battle outside
    And it is ragin’.
    It’ll soon shake your windows
    And rattle your walls
    For the times they are a-changin’.

    AND, that change towards GREEN, must start, in the humble writers’ opinion, by professionals like us.

  22. No. I do not believe that the industry has a special obligation to promote this or any other movement. Our job is to provide customers with the information needed to make the best decision for them. To do that, we need to know what is out there, how it performs and how it will work in the project.

    Personally, I believe everyone should be involved in protecting the environment whenever possible. As a family, we have recycled since our oldest daughter was a Brownie 28 years ago and now our grandchildren are recycling. As a company, we try to use recycled products when possible, we recycle our waste, we have energy efficient lighting, etc. We are also beginning to manufacture a product from post-consumer, pre-landfill glass for certain applications.

    What we don’t do is push an agenda because it is the current buzzword.

  23. There is no doubt that sustainability has moved into the public conversation. As construction professionals, we have an obligation to bring the latest in green construction to our clients and allow them to make the decision.

    It is our role to explain the options, give recommendations and do a quality installation. We merely want to give the client the best solution possible.

    Over the last few years, we have performed a growing number of green installations. While public awareness and knowledge has grown, we believe that is in large part to those in the construction industry spreading the word through trade publications, blogs, word of mouth and social media.

    We will only suggest green construction when it is right for the client, but we believe the industry has done its part to promote homes that offer better sustainability.

  24. You’ve got to take the word “obligation” out of the question as it is not something that is mandated by law for professionals to do. The last thing we need is an entity forcing consumers to do something they may not be in a position to do or is a costly option.

    It’s more about responsibility as a homeowner will be looking for some insight from a designer, architect or contractor as to the best choices available, best practices and why. The media has done more than a good job of educating consumers on the green movement so we’re all aware of the need to be good stewards of our planet and how what we do -and don’t do – affects us all.

    Saving energy and reducing wasteful spending is very much in the minds of the public so it’s likely that many consumers will at the very least embrace technology that helps them do just that, provided that the costs to do so are within reach.

  25. Professionals should advise you of what your options are as a homeowner as you decide to make repairs or improvements to your home–and that includes accurate information on going solar. Some homeowners are interested in knowing what the financial impact of putting a solar energy system on their roof may be, and others are concerned about how that solar array is going to decrease their carbon footprint. And others just want to do the right thing. So if you are a professional, you certainly need to know what the economic incentives are of putting a solar energy system on the house. And you need to be conversant with return on investment calculations. There are many reasons that some folks don’t want to go solar, but if you are a professional, you can support and promote solar energy simply by giving your customers the facts and let them make their own decision.

  26. From a purely business perspective, it would make logical sense to stay abreast of all trends in the home building industry and have the ability to present options to your clients. At the very least, it’s sensible to be knowledgeable on the subject so that when prompted in conversation, whether by a current or potential client, you have the ability to speak intelligently about it. Regarding the green trend sweeping the industry right now, we feel it’s important to at least present ideas and share our thoughts on various avenues someone can take. We’re seeing that most clients come to us with set ideas and look to our experience and expertise to simply help guide them. Fortunately, we have overseen many projects with varying levels of green and have the experience to know what items are most cost effective in the long run. Ultimately, whether we feel an obligation or not, the incorporation of energy saving features, products & methods is completely beholden to what our client’s are willing to spend.

  27. I believe that as professionals we need to be educated on, and promote the green alternatives where they apply to the situation. For example, energy efficient solutions for lighting, such as CFL, and LED technology to me are a no-brainer. Where’s the down side of saving power, both with the family budget and / or the environment in mind?

    Having said that, we need to be responsible in what we promote or recommend just for the sake of going green. A solar power system isn’t going to be practical for a home in a forested valley.

  28. Do Professionals have an Obligation to Support & Promote the Green Movement?

    Professionals have a responsibility to follow the law and customary business practices. They also have a responsibility to treat customers, employees, and suppliers honestly and fairly. They also must be fair to themselves and their businesses.

    So no I don’t believe professionals have an obligation – but I hope they do support and promote the intelligent use of their, our countries and the worlds resources.

  29. I believe most construction and design professionals want to include sustainability, energy and water savings into their projects. It’s the degree we can do it that can vary, and it’s dictated by our clients. We can educate them about products that can improve water and energy efficiency, saving them money in the long run; the decision is up to our clients.
    More and more options are coming on the market that work well and cost less than in the past. Toilets with 1.28 gallon flush, energy star appliances, efficient lighting and insulation products help clients make good decisions for their homes.
    This question is similar to our terrific farmers markets in Seattle. Given the choice of some of the best produce, handmade cheeses and fresh seafood; who wouldn’t want to eat better than they did 20 years ago! The same is true of sustainability for our homes.

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