Green is almost undeniably one of the most marketed colors as it relates to the environment, sustainability, and energy. But what exactly does “green” mean in relation to environmental and energy issues?

More importantly, can a modern product or process really be considered green, and if so, by what benchmark? For example, we know that CFLs use less energy than incandescent lights, but does consuming less energy really make a product greener?

To begin, the word green has ascended to a level much greater than simply a word describing a color, but a term that can imply a variety of definitions, standards, and phrases that are rooted in efficiency, conservation, environmental impact, etc. So let’s break “green” down for a moment. Green can imply any (but not limited to) of the following: High efficiency, conservation, organic, non-toxic, sustainable, renewable, recycled content, recyclable, bio-degradable, natural…

Green is such a multi-faceted word that creating a simple definition would pose no simple task due to the sheer number of situations and contexts the word can have application in. However, English is no stranger to words that have different connotations and that are context specific. You could say, “The wind blew over our trampoline.” or “You need to wind the clock daily for it to operate”. You’re using the same word, but the context changes greatly depending on how you use it.

Right now, I’m wearing a shirt with patches of green, but I don’t see any indication that this shirt is somehow more environmentally friendly than any other typical article of clothing. Alternatively, I could say that I’m wearing a green shirt…because it’s made from organic cotton in a facility powered by
solar energy and was delivered to the department store by a truck that runs on biofuel created using the waste grease of local restaurants.So, green can have a variety of definitions based on how the term fits into a given context.

Getting back to our original questions, we’ll need to explore some current products and ideas that are considered green so we can see just how environmentally conscious they really are,
or are not. To be continued at …

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Tags: efficiency, green


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Comment by Nathan Christensen on December 3, 2010 at 6:35am
Hello Elisa, thank you for the comment.

Hybrid power plants, such as the one you write about in your article (assuming I'm connecting the dots correctly) are certainly "more green" than their counterparts. However, as the article states, a lot of what could make the hybrid power plants more environmentally sound is how the materials are applied in a given situation. Using hybrid power plants to extend the life of an aging coal fired power plant would be similar to converting an old gas guzzling vehicle to a plug-in hybrid, just for example. Its a tricky situation. Personally, I'd rather see newer technologies, such as the molten salt solar thermal method, applied to newer more efficient power plants to further increase efficiency, while older less efficient plants are shut down. But, it is difficult to justify shutting down a functional power plant, you just have to take what you can get.

Its not a "best case" situation, but certainly a step in the right direction.
Comment by Elisa Wood on December 3, 2010 at 2:27am
Very good point. The word "green" is certainly used loosely these days. Are, for example, hybrid power plants green?

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