Monday, June 30, 2008

Should green be a vanity trip...

I'm running a bit late with my posts, the main stream media has discovered that green is super relevant and popular with readers which means there are more articles to share and talk about. The downside is that it's hard to keep up with all the stories. I've been sitting on this story from a week ago because I'm not sure how to take it. The story is about the trendiness of the LEED certification for buildings. Hollywood stars are the ultimate marketing machines because for some reason if a star does it, others will follow. As much as I admire Charles Barkley's declaration that he's not a role model, him and others in the public spotlight are. However, the quest for high point values that LEED is based on, hides the real issue. Can we live with less. There is a great quote from the article by actor Pierce Brosnan's architect

For instance, the Brosnans, environmental advocates who admired Ms. Meyer’s house, are now building a home of their own and “really want to do it green,” said David Hertz, their architect. Mr. Brosnan may adopt many environmentally sound building techniques, but he “is not going to live in a 2,400-square-foot home,” the architect said.

And why not? Billionaire Warren Buffet is living in the same house from the 50s.

The different levels of "LEEDness" becomes a marketing badge instead of something meaningful. Another objection I have to LEEDs certification is the cost of obtaining it. The cost of finding someone to verify that you have abided by the point value system prices it out of the masses. And the masses are generating and having far more impact. Certification as market value means it has a price and that means people will try to counterfeit the certification or at least game the system.

LEED lays down some great guidelines, and it's inevitable someone will start marketing their new development as LEED Compliant, sort of the same way we have organic and certified organic. I really don't care as long as in both cases it's true that the principles were abided by.

The other thing that frustrates me about LEED is that owning something does not mean using it. If you get a point for having a bicycle rack at your building, it doesn't mean it's actually being used. The LEED certification also focuses on building of new construction. As an alternative, the U.S. Green Building Council has a list of 45 ways to green the not so new house. This is better since most of us live in existing construction.

All of the items are focused on being more efficient, doing the same with less. There's a lot of simple stuff, sealing your windows, putting in intelligent thermostats, turning off the lights. All without any certification needed.

I'm glad the stars are role modeling in a positive way, and I hope it's in a way that unites us as oppose to keeps us apart. If it's a I'm platinum and you're not kind of keeping up with the Jones, it's silly since it's still consumption. But it's the private acts that are more important.

I think it's Brancusi who once worked on some statues that were to go on the roof of a building. Supposedly Brancusi spent as much time on the backs of the statue as he did the front, even though the backs would not be visible from their perch. His remark, God can see the backs, but more importantly I know.


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