To continue on from our last conversation, I would first like to offer a definition as to what I personally believe a “green product” should strive to do.

A green product can generally be defined as a product that, from raw material extraction, to end-of-life disposal, lessens its impact on the environment as thoroughly as possible.

While being mindful of the previously stated definition, I would like to ask each of you to look around right now, where ever you location, and think about how much of an energy investment the day to day items you see around you require.

Looking at my desk, I notice my travel mug, which contains 100% recycled content. However well intentioned the travel mugs design, the materials used (plastic, metals) still require large quantities of energy to manufacture. Even the most well intentioned and “greenest” products aren’t necessarily good for the environment, they’re just better than their counterparts. I cannot emphasize enough that green does not mean “no impact,” it means “low impact”.

Compact Florescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) use considerably less energy and last significantly longer than incandescent light bulbs. That’s great…right? Yes and no, because while their extended lifespan does help create less landfill waste and their reduction in energy consumption helps conserve resources, the ballast used for CFLs contains trace amounts of mercury, a toxic element that is commonly discarded into the trash and then our landfills with the disposal of the light bulb.

Electric hand dryers in bathrooms create reduce overall material waste, and because the paper processing procedure is very energy intensive, you’re helping to save that energy, right? Well sure you are, but many hand dryers are not so different from the hair dryer you might have in your home and they can use a lot of energy themselves. Additionally, paper, while produced from a very energy intensive process, is considered a renewable resource and does biodegrade relatively quickly.

The primary point I’m attempting to drive at here is that every product has its own strengths and weaknesses. More than anything, I hope that those who give this post thought realize that we’re marketed green products every day, but not all of them may have as many green qualities as we’re typically led to believe. Use your best judgment, stop and give pause when a product makes a claim about how it better serves the environment, and most of all, realize that no matter how green a product is, anything man-made has an environmental impact.

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