What does green mean?

There is certainly a lot of talk about sustainability, conservation and green by architects, designers, property developers, builders and cabinetmakers; but what does it mean? If you really want to know what "green" is, you should read Cradle to Cradle, by William McDonough & Michael Braungart. Even the material the book is printed on, some kind of fully recyclable stuff, is green. Then again, others are saying timber and the lumber we use to build things is also totally green as it is renewable. So, also is particleboard without added formaldehyde green.

All these expressions are clearly about the material only. If the material is green and is shipped from China to North America, it is unfortunately no longer green. Transporting green material via ocean, rail and truck long distances to get to its destination, makes it far less green. Any product claiming to be green while polluting nature in its creation and supply to market can hardly be green.

Being a green organization 

A company that builds sustainable housing may quickly pronounce themselves as a "Green Organization." While that may be so, a closer look at what a green organization is will quickly reveal that there is a great chasm between a green product and a green organization.

A green organization while producing green products must also be green in every aspect of its activities with regard to design, engineering, manufacture, administration and supply to market. Above all it must have a low environmentally damaging footprint.

Ideally, at this time, it should have an environmentally improving stance and contribute to the betterment of our environment. Unfortunately, worldwide there are not enough organizations taking up this necessary burden.

What can we do? 

But to take our heads out of the clouds, how can we cabinetmakers do our part in this business of "going green"? We can recycle. We can ascribe to the philosophy: Waste not, want not. And we can offer our customers a green product. Green particleboard is available everywhere in North America. At this time it is somewhat more expensive because the volume used is small. Also available is ABS edge banding, a little different in price from PVC, no difference in application, but a lot greener.

You are asking why you should take the extra effort to sell this more costly material in these times when it is hard enough to sell at all. Because by talking about green you will raise the awareness in people as to its importance.

Green to me is the key to sustainability, conservation and ultimately the move to halt climate change. If all in the cabinet business take this stance, we will ultimately reach everyone on the planet and will have done our part in saving it. Would that not be efficiency to dream about?


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About the author
Gero Sassenberg

Gero Sassenberg has decades of experience in the woodworking industry on three continents, specialized in management and engineering consulting to cabinet and furniture manufacturers. He focuses on continuous improvement resulting in greater growth and profitability. He was a regular contributor to CabinetMaker and CabinetMakerFDM for many years.