Environmentalism

Home Depot Is Starting to Look a Little Green Around the Edges

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Trying to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers, Home Depot has begun to classify some of the products it sells as greener than others. But as the chain discovered when it invited suppliers to suggest candidates for the new product category, greenness is in the eye of the beholder:

More than 60,000 products—far more than obvious candidates like organic gardening products and high-efficiency lightbulbs—suddenly developed environmental star power.

Plastic-handled paint brushes were touted as nature-friendly because they were not made of wood. Wood-handled paint brushes were promoted as better for the planet because they were not made of plastic.

An electric chainsaw? Green, because it was not gas-powered. A bug zapper? Ditto, because it was not a poisonous spray. Manufacturers of paint thinners, electrical screwdrivers and interior overhead lights claimed similar bragging rights simply because their plastic or cardboard packaging was recyclable.

Home Depot is in the process of vetting such claims, deciding which features should count when it comes to getting along better with Mother Nature. As The New York Times notes, this is no simple matter. A refrigerator, for example, might be considered environmentally superior because of its energy efficiency. But what about the energy and other resources used to make the refrigerator, the pollution generated by its production and transportation, or the waste generated by the packaging and the refrigerator itself when it's thrown out? Should a green stamp of approval be based on a product's entire life cycle, or just one or two easily measured features? Similar issues came up in the debates over paper vs. plastic bags and cloth vs. disposable diapers.

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  1. “th Edges”?

  2. Hasn’t some sort of environmentalist version of Consumer Reports sprung up yet?

  3. If Home Depot *really* wants to appeal to “environmentally conscious consumers” they need to get their founder, Arthur Blank, to quit looking the other way and cut loose the dog fighting degenerate who QB’s the football team he owns…

  4. It’s that old Absolutely Fabulous routine come to life! Saffy asks how Edina’s crappy plastic sunglasses could sport a green “kind to trees” label. “Well they ain’t bloody made of wood!” her mom snapped back. Life imitates art!

  5. Hasn’t some sort of environmentalist version of Consumer Reports sprung up yet?

    This is an issue with a large mjority of “green” claims. e.g. Electric cars – Great! No emissions. Upon further review, emissions are just removed to the coal fired electric plant, Wait a minute, is the electricity from the electric plant responsible for more or less CO2 than that would be produced by an internal combustion engine? What about the toxicity of battery components. Are the recycling facilities for batteries on-line, planned for, or just assumed as existing. What about smog production from refilling your gas power auto, especially on ozone alert days.
    And away we go. I haven’t even mentioned such non-environmental factors as cost, practicality, and performance.

    I’m a rational environmentalist, and I can’t ask, much less answer all the ramifications of using a “green” product.

    Warren’s idea, well executed of course, would be valuable to a thinking environmentall concious person.

  6. Jim Murphy|- I doubt that dog fighting is really an environmental issue. It’s a moral one though, and I agree, Michael Vick should be given his walking papers.

  7. J sub D –
    well explained, thanks. I’ve heard similar answers to questions about whether ethanol is actually environmentally friendly or not.

  8. I remember a similar motif coming up about tires a few years ago. “Somebody” found that tires that lasted longer produced much more waste during manufacture. I don’t recall that they ever concluded whether or not the longer lasting were more or less wasteful, but they did find that the question of wastefulness was much more complicated than longevity.

  9. The only way to attract “environmentally conscious consumers” is to inflate prices high enough to keep black men out.

    The Varicose Sundress Organic Co-Op is never next door to Popeye’s.

    Home Depot’s parking lot day labor market doesn’t help, either.

  10. My city’s farmer’s market is next to two housing projects.

    So Nyahhh!!!

  11. What is really needed is a government agency of some sort, say the Environmental Assessment Agency, to determine what a retailer can and cannot sell as “green”.

    This agency would be perfectly able to convey the appropriate information to consumers and as a federally funded agency it would be above corruption by money-grubbing manufacturers.

    Since it is a government agency that doesn’t have profit as a motivation, it can change with the times and products as they become more green until such point in time where it is no longer needed. Then, like all government programs, it would simply be defunded and cease to exist. Perfection.

  12. I own ten shares of Home Depot stock. Therefore, I support any action they take that increases the value of their stock by, say, $200,000 per share. Yes, that should be about right.

  13. Why do you own just ten shares?

    And what are you plotting that you need $2,000,000 for? Will it make the news?

  14. my closest farmer’s market is next to brooklyn superior court.

    (misnomer: the court is actually so-so)

    but stuff like this is going to be a thing for a while, until some kinda equilibrium works out and we’re done having green toothbrushes and organic tobacco and stuff.

  15. PL:

    As a majority stakeholder in that company you should demand to know why, when I am in there and in need of assistance, everyone in an orange smock does a wind sprint and a dive into the next aisle when I look their way.

  16. highnumber,

    I inherited them.

    News? I don’t know, do people care about the moon leaving orbit? Probably not.

    sage,

    I shouldn’t admit this, but I go to Ace more often than Home Depot. They’re really close by and seem to be more willing to provide, um, service. Not that I don’t go to HD pretty often–home ownership has its privileges.

  17. highnumber,

    VM needs to post on the it-turns-out-that-highnumber-is-a-replicant posting over at Urkobold. But I can’t find him. You didn’t like stick him in a freezer or poke his eyes out or anything–right? Ahem, not that you didn’t pass the test. No, sirree, I never said that!

  18. What is really needed is a government agency of some sort, say the Environmental Assessment Agency, to determine what a retailer can and cannot sell as “green”.

    I know you were not totally serious, but anyway…

    Isn’t there an organization that handles this already? Called EnergyStar? You know, the screen that pops up when you boot your PC.

    At my work, our roofing material has an EnergyStar approval. Why doesn’t Home Depot just use that?

    (Actually, does anyone know if EnergyStar has any gub’ment affiliation? It seems like one of those quasi-governmental organizations.)

  19. I went to the Farmer’s Market on Maui only to discover that 90% of the produce came from Costco. The stuff that didn’t was muy yummy though.

    I remember when everyone was on the steel stud bandwagon for interior walls. It’s sooooooo ooooooh eco-friendly except that iron is a finite resource and wood (trees) can be farmed for eternity.

    Pro, you actually get service at Home Depot? Besides the smiles I mean. They’re mostly nice enough but if you get complicated those guys are lost. Except the old guys who are working for fun and that one chick in plumbing.

  20. my closest farmer’s market is next to brooklyn superior court.

    (misnomer: the court is actually so-so)

    dhex, that was excellent!

  21. Of course the hard core Greenies (and I mean that in a loving way–not referring to what you hack up and spit on the grass) realize that the whole green movement is mostly a market reaction with the goal of selling more stuff to suburban progressives who care ever so much about the environment while ensuring that the A/C hums merrily along keeping the temps and humidity quite comfy inside all summer long.

  22. Should a green stamp of approval be based on a product’s entire life cycle, or just one or two easily measured features?

    Based on the products entire life cycle…of course.

    That was an easy one.

  23. The Wine Commonsewer,

    Not really. I was referring to Ace. It’s the place with the helpful hardware man, don’t you know?

  24. Neu Mejican,

    rhetorical question
    n. A question to which no answer is expected, often used for rhetorical effect.

  25. Even if it were easy to calculate these things, ultimately it’d come down to individual differential valuation of the values involved, i.e. matters of taste. But since it’s not easy to calculate, and because information has its costs, as does thinking, in many cases it comes down to where attention is focused. And attention isn’t a free good.

  26. Pro, although I claim to be able to read……..

    🙂

    Ace is the place and I am old enough to remember real hardware stores where the floors where worn wood and they had steel bins filled with nails that were sold by the pound.

  27. Ace is the place with the helpful hardware PERSON. Listen to the song – its not a man any more, even if it usually is.

  28. Taktix? | June 28, 2007, 4:42pm | #

    Why did you provide the definition of rhetorical question?

  29. Taktix? | June 28, 2007, 4:42pm | #

    Why do you find it so hard to hear my sarcastic tone on this thread?

  30. Taktix? | June 28, 2007, 4:42pm | #

    Prosody is very hard to type.

  31. It sounds like the labelling is being done by the ass-brained “associates” who work there. Every time I deal with Home Depot staff, I’m reminded of the Wal-Mart (er, Mega-lo-Mart) associated parodied on King of the Hill. Their entire knowledge of the inventory consists of “I dunno” and “if you don’t see it, we must not have it.”

    This is probably how their genius ex-CEO improved their bottom line enough to make off with a $200 million retirement package. Just gut the organization of productive assets, downsize the staff and replace it with totally ignorant and unmotivated people on minimum wage, and otherwise milk the company to inflate the short-term apparent profit margin–leaving your successors to take the blame when the bill comes due.

  32. Should a green stamp of approval be based on a product’s entire life cycle, or just one or two easily measured features?

    We really, really nead to see Shikha Dalmia’s Solomonic take on this.

  33. Ace is the place and I am old enough to remember real hardware stores where the floors where worn wood and they had steel bins filled with nails that were sold by the pound.

    There are places like that around in small towns.

  34. lowe’s is actually pretty good in the “if i don’t know where something is, i will find someone who does” department. seem to hire folks who have at least a vague interest in home improvement and repairs, too.

  35. Recycle means to re-use, if you do recycle you conserve waste, money and energy. It is a good example for all energy rating and energy savers out there.

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