What’s “Green” Mean?

I use the term because it’s widely known, used, and abused as a concept that roughly indicates choices that are environmentally appropriate, energy and water efficient, healthy to humans, pets, and living organisms. Pretty dang nebulous, I admit.  This website and blog will investigate and discuss these concerns in more detail, but in the meantime, I’m going to use the term, “green” to refer to the efforts addressed. Just as the term, “beauty” is subjective, so is the term, “green”.  To some, “green” deals with energy efficiency. To others, “green” focuses on the environmental impact of building or living choices. Others may think of lifestyle, such as transportation choices, food choices, and family planning. I recognize that the term is wide-ranging and can accommodate all these considerations and more.

I will make an attempt to use the term, “green” more often than the term, “sustainable” as I hold the latter as describing a more defined and a “raised bar” concept. The World Commission on Environment and Development established what may be the most quoted definition as stating, “Sustainable development is development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generation to meet their own needs.”  When considering our American lifestyle, our collective inability to distinguish “needs” from “wants” can be embarrassing at times. But before I risk becoming too politically incorrect, there’s even a more difficult aspect to consider with sustainability. What is the true environmental impact of the decisions we make? Can anything be truly sustainable?  I think it’s possible with regard to agriculture and the ability to grow everything one needs to eat, but sustainable building is an even trickier problem. What is a material that can be considered sustainable? There are a handful that come close (earthen and straw materials), but when thinking along the lines of contemporary construction, what are the environmental impacts of lumber or concrete? What is the “embodied energy” of materials? How does one effectively deal with greenhouse gas emissions of building materials?  These are questions that are addressed by some very wise and deep thinkers, and I hope there will be a suggested bibliography somewhere on this site someday. Nonetheless, I think it’s just more appropriate to use the term “green” and not interchange it with “sustainable” here.

DISCLAIMER: Despite our endeavors to publish truthful and accurate information on this website, I am confident with regard to the materials and systems I have personally had experience with, but when referring to colleagues, friends, building professionals, and other resources in regard to sustainable practices and green design, I’m at the mercy of the accuracy of what I find out from others. Therefore I strongly encourage you all to please research all claims and statements for yourself before incorporating any systems, materials, providers, lifestyles or methods, mentioned on this website. Neither myself nor the contributing writers nor commenters make any warranty or representation whatsoever, express or implied, with respect to any information, apparatus, method, process, or similar item discussed, or that the information is suitable to any particular user’s circumstance, or assumes responsibility for any damages or other liability whatsoever resulting from your selection or use of this blog or any information, apparatus, method, process, or similar item disclosed herein. Now there’s a word I seldom use in ordinary conversation, “herein”. Nor is any warranty or claim made as to the completeness or accuracy of the information on this site. Ask your doctor if green design is right for you. Side effects may include giddiness, the tendency to talk out of turn or sleep in a horizontal position. Seriously, don’t just take the information here on its own merit. Check it out for yourselves. And if you do find something that conflicts with what I’ve placed here, I would very much appreciate your bringing it to my attention.

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