In the past four months, I have been to three trade shows and an association meeting where the hottest topic was definitely 'green' or environmentally friendly. It wasn't just about whether or not to go or sell green, but exactly what it takes to be considered a green manufacturer. Your take on this might be to question what it has to do with you.

The consensus among all the different show participants is that the green movement is here to stay, and in fact will significantly expand in scope. If that is the case, then it's important that we all keep abreast of the changes in manufacturing and marketing.

Levels of green

There are various levels of green as well as different types of certifications. It is not an easy subject to get answers for because the concept is constantly evolving and changing as we learn more.

I could give you a list of certifications or definitions now that could be completely different a month from now or sooner. I believe it's important to every industry to keep abreast of the changes in consumer attitudes.

Why should you care?

All indications are that a majority of this country's population today are not happy with the direction the country is going. People want change and I think the environmental movement could be a significant part of that change. Both sides of the political spectrum are now talking about it.

Even if you don't believe the weather is an indication of potentially devastating climactic changes, you just have to go to the gas pump and grocery store to know that energy demands are reaching into all our pockets. And some of the changes we've made to meet the energy crisis have negatively affected the world's food market.

Green isn't just about sustainable or recyclable products it's about maximizing energy use in any and every way we can. CabinetMaker touched on this in our recent three-part series on saving energy in the Wood Doctor column.

In reality, a lot of the efforts of the environmental initiatives are to make life better for all of us, not only to save the planet for our children but to save us money and provide a safer environment to live in.

Will you be ready?

All of us need to ask ourselves if we're going to be ready when the changes come. It's inevitable that we'll see big changes. We are an adaptable nation that has always proved itself resilient and I personally believe we're up to the challenge, once we accept that the environmental movement is not just a trend.

Al Gore's Alliance will be working hard to keep the topic on everyone's mind with a $300-million effort over three years to lobby the United States, and later the rest of the world, to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. I've already seen some very odd couplings in TV ads presenting the need for all of us to work together.

Small steps first

It's not easy and it can be expensive, but I also think it can be a great opportunity. I'm taking small steps and making small changes, but I'm not waiting. Where will you end up in the move to green on the leading edge ready to go, or are you going to be waiting until you have no choice?

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.