Going Beyond Green

Green peace sign - going beyond green.It’s safe to say that green has hit the mainstream in a major way. Newspapers cover it, radio shows talk about it and there are even entire cable television networks devoted to the topic. Green living is the new paradigm that will continue to progress until it has become standard operating procedure.

After all, it only makes sense. Green living is all about logic. It’s logical to be more efficient, to live a healthier life, to reduce our negative impacts on the environment and to save money. And living a greener lifestyle benefits everyone.

There are some caveats however. With popularity comes opportunity. Unfortunately, there are many companies promoting products that are green in name only, a practice known as green-washing. This practice hampers true progress toward sustainability. The best way to avoid green-washing is to look carefully at a product or service to determine if it truly meets a real green standard.

But just what is a green standard and do they even exist? For the most part, they are few and far between, but they are growing. Responsible citizens (remember, I dislike labeling intelligent people as mere “consumers”) can access a lot of information online to help make better green purchasing decisions. For example, the EPA has an Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Program that helps federal agencies purchase greener products that will help stimulate market demand for green products and services.

There are industry-related programs such as the Forest Stewardship Council’s guidelines that promote the sustainable use of our precious forests. The Carpet and Rug Institute has a Green Label program that identifies products that emit fewer toxins into the indoor environment. The non-profit U.S. Green Building Council developed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green building program to help quantify environmentally-responsible building techniques.

Another non-profit organization, Green Seal, provides certification for products that meet rigorous, science-based environmental leadership standards. The Cradle to Cradle Certification program focuses on product design. It provides “a means to tangibly, credibly measure achievement in environmentally-intelligent design and helps customers purchase and specify products that are pursuing a broader definition of quality,” as stated on their web site.

A broader definition of quality is really what we’re talking about here. It goes beyond green. The label we put on it doesn’t matter. It’s the quest for a higher form of excellence; one that encompasses not only the immediate benefits of a product or service, but the long-term impacts on our environment and quality of life.

Green living has its place and I’m glad to see that so many are embracing the idea. It’s now possible to walk into a sales office and purchase a new green home as a standard offering. Not every home builder is doing this yet, but I’m convinced it will quickly become the new standard. The transition is well underway. Perhaps the time is ripe to look beyond green, to go deeper than ever into the practice of living lighter on the planet. In fact, let’s not just live lightly ON the planet, let’s BE the planet. Living lighter implies that there is a remaining negative impact, but being less bad is not the solution. Living as a beneficial, vital and integral part of our world is really where we must go. In other words, let’s live on the planet as if we intend to stay.

Beyond green lies a society that actually heals local and global ecosystems by complimenting the natural world, recognizing our place in the web of life and re-integrating with it. It will include more responsible development and use of modern technology, along with re-membering our ancient past and the wisdom of long-lived indigenous cultures. It must also embrace an evolved economic system based on the truthful accounting of all costs, including those that negatively affect our environment.

We’re turning in the right direction. We have the green light. It’s shining brightly and we’re accelerating forward. Now let us plan our next move, beyond green, down the road toward a future of deep, lasting and true sustainability.

Green Living column for Thursday, January 29, 2009, published in the Las Vegas Review Journal: “Going green earns homes platinum rating”

Additional Resources: