Never Green Enough

Everywhere businesses are going green, but no firm will ever be green enough for the greens. According to an article in today’s New York Times, alleged green products currently being marketed by Home Depot don’t measure up—and many probably never will.

Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and other firms focused on “green marketing” simply undermine their own businesses and the products they sell when the label some green and others not. Even the so-called “green products” suffer as groups like the Sierra Club label them nothing more that the result of “greenwashing.”

One alleged problem is that there “are few verifiable or certified standards to substantiate claims.” Accordingly, Home Depot is working with a company that will do “life cycle analysis” to determine each product’s impact. Sounds expensive—and you can bet that consumers will eventually pay for those costs. Ironically, the supposedly bad products—such as pesticides—on Home Depot’s shelves have already undergone extensive testing and are subject to excessive federal regulations to ensure safety. If consumers use them according to label directions, they need not worry.

In any case, I’d rather rely on the most effective information tool ever invented: the market process. Markets by their nature are driven toward economic use of resources. Firms that make products that perform their vital functions while using the fewest resources possible are the most profitable. So who needs a “life cycle analysis?” These assessments involve value judgments about how we should live our lives advanced mostly by people who want the rest of us to stop consuming.

In fact, the real answer for the greens involves getting rid of consumer choice. One “green advisor” notes in the story: “If they [Home Depot] really wanted to promote sustainability, they would discontinue their products with the least green attributes…Manufacturers would stop making them on the spot.”