Greenwashing is everywhere, Yes, even in architecture.
Greenwashing is marketing at its worst. Essentially, it is when a business or entity will make false or misleading claims about the sustainability and eco-friendliness of their products and business. Greenwashing is rife within consumerism, and often the people who fall victim to it are well-meaning individuals attempting to make more conscious choices for a better world (not to mention, you know, the planet). But greenwashing is tricky, and corporations have a habit of not making it easy to fully know and understand what is actually involved in creating their products and services and their effects. If you haven’t heard this yet, sorry to burst your bubble- but greenwashing exists in the world of design and architecture too.
First, let’s look at some “red flags” of greenwashing in the broader world, so you know what to look out for:
- Environmental imagery (leaves, trees, flowers, both false and real)
- “Certified” products and materials. Many businesses make this claim, but it’s up to you as the consumer to identify what they are actually certified for, don’t just take their word for it.
- Hiding “how the bacon is made”
- Irrelevant and false claims
- “Recycled” materials that are leftovers from their own inefficiencies
So when looking for an architectural firm or investigating materials that will be used in your future home, consider asking these questions:
- What claims do you have to back this up?
- Where and how were these materials sourced?
- What process or treatments have these materials undergone?
- Would you use these processes and treatments in your own home?
Asking questions such as these can help you to dig deeper and get to the truth. But, if a business is comfortable lying (which is essentially what greenwashing is), then it’s likely they would be comfortable lying to you and falsify the answers to some of these questions. Stand your ground; it’s your right to be an informed consumer, especially when it comes to one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make, a house. If they give you an answer that you’re not satisfied with or simply side-step the question, consider that a red flag, or tell them, “that doesn’t clear up my concerns, and I don’t feel right continuing with you based on the information you have given me”. If they are really green advocates who are doing the right thing, they will be able to provide you with the right information so that you feel comfortable and positive about moving forward with them.
However, we do realise that for many, to get a home, the word compromise comes up often; it’s called a budget. Ask your designer to offer you details on the certified materials if that is an important factor to you. BUT, THE BIGGEST issue we have in our “green homes” is the lack of thought around scale, energy-effective building techniques, and systems. You know, the ones which will give you a dry, warm, healthy home all year round which costs you less to live in – NOW THAT IS A GREEN HOME.
Watch for more info on this later.
- Always ask questions
- Be prepared to do your own research
- Be cautious of “red flags”
- Stand your ground, you have the right to be an informed homeowner
Have you ever fallen victim to greenwashing before?