Definition of Green
The word "Green" is not the omni-term for anything environmental
although there is the tendency to substitute the word "Green" for
"Environmental." Environmentalism is to grand topic that has several
subdivisions. Under this grand topic o environmentalism, we will find
Green, Sustainable, Pollution, and Conservation. Each one of these
subdivisions are immense subject on their own.
In the mash-up of words and concepts, we have lost the fundamental
meaning of Green. Environmental, Green, or Sustainable now blur into
that ugly green color that we made in kindergarten when we slurred all
the colors into one big blob. We cannot progress when confusion reigns,
and every science starts out with a definition of terms.
The best definition of Green refers to the health impact of what we do
on living things. So Green is primarily a health-related issue. This is
seen in the fact that cleaning products were the early Green issues. In
fact, indoor air quality is a big factor in Green buildings. Sick
building syndrome was the result of poor indoor air quality, which is
the antithesis of Green.
Sustainability is also badly morphed into many applications, but
essentially deals with the management of our resources. This is a
complimentary issue to Green, so it a Green and Sustainable business
means that the company considers the health of the workplace as well as
the material demands of the business.
The health of the workplace can be impacted by cleaning products,
building materials, furniture, as well as paint and carpeting. "Outgassing"
is a well documented concern. The installation of new carpet, new
furniture, new paint, and new wood leave residual fumes as these items
continue to dry out. Your senses will betray you because we think that
anything new is clean and healthy, but that is a huge mistake. The
varnishes and additives to paint, carpet glue, and wood fall under the
category of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that are not good for you.
If your health is comprised, these fumes can worsen your condition and
hasten disease. If you are healthy, the long term exposure will wear you
down in time.
Think of the dust that is recirculated that contains bacteria, virus,
dust mite feces and scales, carbon from the copies, and so much more. It
is a wonder that we aren't sick all the time except that we are
generally healthy and able to live in hostile environments for a long
The people who are supposed to help clean our facilities and protect our
health through sanitizing processes are the janitors, but clean does not
mean healthy. The ammonia in the window spray is harmful, the zinc in
the floor finish is bad for humans, the numerous chemicals in the
cleansers add to a worsening situation.
Mold is a persistent problem for many buildings. The mold spores are
never good for the workers, and can become a crisis concern if
untreated. Latent issues remain the in the HVAC system as well. It is
fair to say that the air of any building is a kind of "Ground Zero" for
any office or business. If the employees are negatively impacted,
productivity will fall. Afternoon headache, occasional nausea, and
lethargy can be signs of an unhealthy indoor air quality. So, while your
building may be energy efficient, and you may be conserving water as
well as recycling your trash (sustainability issues), the building may
be very un-Green because it is unhealthy.
The Green Business League believes that a Green office starts with an
understanding of the healthy office and a serious look at the components
that compromise indoor air quality. Consider using a Green certified
janitorial service that also uses Green cleaning products, microfiber
cloths, and HEPA vacuums. Do not let mold go untreated. Be mindful of
all paint, carpet, and furniture used in the facility because they
introduce a large volume of gases into the air.
Green is a primarily a health-related issue that blends into the other
topics of sustainability, pollution control, and conservation. By
dividing out the topics properly, the plan of attack seem much more
clear. To attack the issue in a methodic manner, businesses should
considering "Going Green" first then moving into the sustainable issues.
The early disdain for the word Green comes from the anti-business
attitudes of ultra-conservationists that needed a target for their
vitriol. Green is not an anti-business concept when properly understood.
A Green business is one that is a good place for living things in the
workplace, in the community, and in the world.
About the author
Michael Richmond is the director of the
Green Business League, and trainer for the
Certified Sustainability Officer course. If you serve in the
capacity of a sustainable officer, certification is invaluable