Is Green Passé?

John G. Swanson
August 23, 2010
THE TALK... | Sales & Marketing

When I saw this week's news from UL that it's now working on its sustainability standards for windows and doors what struck me most is the fact that we've had so few "green" headlines of late. With tax credits, Home Star and R-5, energy efficiency shows no signs of going away, but I started wondering if concerns about recycled content or certified forests were on the wane?

I thought I'd try to gain some insight with our poll question this week. Of course, I'd like to hear from you too. Is it "the economy, stupid" and people are just focused on dollars and cents issues–like energy efficiency–these days? Did "green" run its course as a marketing trend? Or are carbon footprints, sustainability and such just the way we do business now and less worthy of headlines? Email me and share your green thoughts.

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Max Perilstein’s blog, featured on, offers some interesting insights, including this one:  “…do not discount the fact that enough people reacted negatively to folks who "greenwashed…."

Good question on Green.

My sense is that Green is a nice to have for the vast majority of the population. If you have two equal products, then the Green one wins.

There are some segments where people will pay a premium for Green, but I’m not yet convinced that they believe vinyl is Green enough.

Telling the Green story is quite challenging – everyone says they are Green in some fashion. We, for example, even highlight that we recently installed a “cool roof” (white reflective roof) which very Green. That is part of the Green-ness of our plant. We also just switched over our poly foam spray insert to an agricultural spray foam. Both of those are part of our move to be more and more Green, yet I am not convinced that buying decisions are made on those points.

The most practical place for Green is in LEEDS, where specific points are assigned and there is a specific way to measure Green. On college campuses and many corporate campuses and in some residential communities, LEEDS ratings are a major selling point and there is some price premium paid to achieve the the Silver or Gold rating.

Last month, it was reported that price is a major factor in choosing a window. That reflects the economy and the commodity nature of the market.

We believe that there is strong innovation still underway, however, and that new products will emerge to be more energy efficient and provide direct savings to homeowners. We recently introduced the industry’s first (and only, so far) dual-pane R-5 qualified double-hung window.

Homeowners want both – Green and Energy Efficient- but are only willing to pay for Energy Efficient.

If LEEDS becomes marketed and supported with rebates and incentives, much like ENERGY STAR and 30/30, then you’ll see manufacturers invest more into doing more Green, and very rapidly.

Survey Results as of 08/30/2010:

Is your company using the word "green" in promoting itself or its products?

Yes, it's a key message in our marketing.




Yes, It gets mentioned, but it's not a focus.




No, we have too many other messages we're trying to convey.





John also writes:

Our poll results this week definitely run counter to my thought that green might be considered passé. Nearly half of our respondents indicate that green is key part of their company's marketing message, and another quarter at least give it a mention. 

Was I crazy to raise the question?  Let me share with you a statement from Craig Smith, ServiceMagic CEO, discussing his company's latest survey of remodelers and consumers.  "While we show a fairly decent level of awareness for green and energy-efficient alternatives, this isn't translating to action," he writes. "Over 500 service professionals told us that consumers implement green alternatives into their projects less than 10 percent of the time."

The window business may have good reason to keep "green" in its message, according to Smith.  The one exception to the green inactivity the survey reveals is in the realm of window replacements, he reports.  According to the ServiceMagic survey, they are up 81 percent this year compared to the second quarter of 2009.

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