Greenwash Action will always be guided by basic principles like non-violence and truthfulness. Within these core principles, we are committed to saying and doing whatever we think will be most effective in producing the change we need. This includes gathering and disseminating information as well as taking direct action and creating opportunities for collective action.

Stand Up for Environmental Leadership and Progress - Sign On to the Open Letter to the Directors of the Green Building Initiative.

Ray Tonjes
Ray Tonjes Builder, Inc.
(Chairman)

Shervin Ansari
Kiewit Corporation

Tim Atkinson
Stimson Lumber

Matt Belcher
Belcher Homes

Allen Blakey
The Vinyl Institute

Stephen Del Percio
URS Corporation

Joan Fitzmaurice
Plum Creek

Bill Freeman
Resilient Floor Covering Institute

Gordon Gill
Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture

Michelle Halle
JELD-WEN, Inc.

Jeff Hrivnak, Ph.D.
Solvay Specialty Polymers

Dr. Charles Kibert, Ph.D., P.E.
University of Florida

Mark Kuntz
Mitsubishi Cooling and Heating

Kathy Loftus
Whole Foods Market

Dan Murphy, PE
Power Engineers
Collaborative, LLC.

Steven Straus, P.E.
Glumac

Jay Thomas
Sika Sarnafil

Dear Green Building Initiative directors,

We, the undersigned, are writing to express certain concerns about the Green Building Initiative (GBI) and the Green Globes rating system. We urge you to take steps to address these concerns and to join us in tackling the serious environmental problems we all face. Specifically, we urge you to:

Help us Find the Solutions: According to the world’s climate scientists, humanity has limited time to reduce our greenhouse emissions or we will cross a tipping point where climate change becomes self-reinforcing, irreversible, and uncontrollable. It is urgent that industry, environmentalists, and green building proponents stop devoting our resources to battling one another and instead come together to identify and implement common-sense, common-ground solutions that reduce the energy use of buildings, shrink the carbon footprint of building materials, and promote responsible forestry while curbing deforestation around the world.

Tell the Truth: Either strengthen Green Globes so that it embodies the same level of performance (or better) as LEED in the areas in which Green Globes is relatively weak, or reposition it and be forthright about the fact that it is not equivalent to more rigorous rating systems like LEED and the Living Building Challenge.

Cease the Attacks: A number of you represent companies and trade associations in the chemical, plastics and timber industries that are driving efforts to ban LEED for use by federal agencies and state governments. You are also underwriting negative media campaigns against LEED and U.S. Green Building Council. These attacks need to stop.

Help Us Find Solutions

According to the world’s climate scientists, humanity has limited time to make a radical change of course. In the coming years, we have to stop growing and start reducing our CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, and we have to continue reducing them to zero net emissions toward the end of the century. If we fail to do this, then we will cross a tipping point where climate change becomes self-reinforcing, irreversible, and uncontrollable.

We are all on this fragile planet together. The threats we face – from climate change to soaring cancer rates – have never been more pressing. Rather than fighting to defend business as usual or competing for market share, we should be working together to reduce the risk of catastrophic climate change and to advance building practices and products that preserve human and ecological health.

We should focus constructively on the areas where we already appear to share common ground:

  • the need to increase building energy efficiency
  • the need to reduce the carbon footprint of building materials and to identify and promote policies and tools that reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of materials industries
  • the need to halt forest degradation and destruction primarily in the developing world, where deforestation causes around 20% of the world’s carbon emissions – more than the entire global transport sector.

Tell The Truth

To date, the GBI and its allies have taken actions that create confusion in the marketplace and suggest that Green Globes is equivalent to stronger green building rating systems. This is unfair to the organizations and individuals who have pushed the envelope on sustainability in the building industry.

Green Globes is less stringent than LEED in important ways all across the different areas covered by the rating systems: energy, water, indoor environmental quality, materials, etc. And while it is true that Green Globes is more flexible than LEED, avoiding prerequisites and granting significant discretion to auditors in granting points for projects, it is not at all clear that these differences translate into better buildings.

And yet, the president of the GBI, Jerry Yudelson, is often quoted in the media claiming that Green Globes is “better, cheaper and faster” than LEED. Green Globes may be “cheaper and faster,” which is to be expected when the bar is lower, but we fail to see how Green Globes is “better.”

The most recent version of LEED, LEED v4, has Materials and Resources credits designed to address transparency and ‘chemicals of concern’ in building materials and indoor environments as well as the responsible extraction of raw materials used in building products.

In Green Globes’ Materials and Resources section, however, the great majority of the points available can be garnered using tools or disclosures based on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), e.g. the Athena Impact Estimator and Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs). While LCA and EPDs have promise, they currently fail to address chemicals of concern or the responsible extraction of raw materials.

Additionally, Green Globes rewards the use of wood products certified under industry-backed forest certification systems like the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) at the same level as it does wood certified according to the relatively rigorous standards of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). And yet SFI is not equivalent to FSC, as those of you who represent the timber industry know. We encourage the SFI to either improve its standards so it is truly equivalent to FSC, or to rebrand itself and cease claiming or seeking equivalence to FSC.

We strongly support LEED and the Living Building Challenge’s holistic approach to green building and their progressive stance on building materials. We firmly believe that green buildings are about much more than energy and water efficiency: green buildings are healthy buildings, and the boundaries of true sustainability extend to the materials industries that supply the stuff of which buildings are made.

That said, we also support increasing the overall number and variety of buildings that incorporate at least some green measures, including a reduction of energy and water used in building operations.

Therefore we urge you either to improve Green Globes where it is currently relatively weak, or to reposition it as a streamlined system that does not seek or claim equivalence with higher standards like LEED and Living Building Challenge, but rather seeks to extend some green building measures to a larger percentage of the buildings built worldwide.

Cease The Attacks

In an interview with LEEDuser, Jerry Yudelson stated that he views the GBI’s role as that of a “friendly competitor” to LEED rather than a nemesis, and he doesn’t “really see us getting engaged in anti-LEED activity as an organization.”

And yet the chemical, plastics and timber industries are widely known to be backing efforts to ban LEED politically and to smear LEED in the press.

SFI supporters in the conventional timber industry have persuaded governors and legislators in Maine, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi to stop using LEED for state construction because LEED does not recognize SFI as equivalent to FSC – when in fact it is not. The chemical and vinyl industries have lobbied congress and state legislatures to pressure federal agencies and require the state of Ohio to use Green Globes over LEED, supposedly on the grounds that the former is a “consensus-based” standard while the latter is not.

And in the media, for years now, there has been a steady drumbeat of anti-LEED articles, editorials, and opinion pieces. Most recently, a notorious PR operative with a history of “astroturfing” and smear campaigns against public interest groups like the Humane Society and Mothers Against Drunk Driving launched an anti-LEED website (www.leedexposed.com) and placed an op ed riddled with inaccuracies and half-truths in USA Today.

Those of you who represent the conventional timber industry and the chemical and plastics industries created the GBI. Your industries dominate its governance and control its funding. If you are sincere about promoting high-performance building, you must cease attacking leadership standards like LEED and FSC and stop using your lobbying power to create market drivers for Green Globes by force.

In Conclusion

We have a solid basis for our criticisms of Green Globes and the anti-LEED actions of the chemical, plastics and conventional timber industry that support it.

But above all else, we want to make speedy progress toward a healthy, biodiverse and climate-stable world. We are not interested in fighting for fighting’s sake. Instead, we want to work toward using our resources to solve our collective problems. However, this cooperation can only be achieved when the underlying reasons for the conflict are resolved.

Signed:

Jason Grant
Executive Director
Greenwash Action

Dave Hamilton
Director for Clean Energy
Sierra Club

Daniel Brindis
Forest Campaigner
Greenpeace

Denis Hayes
CEO/Chairman
Bullitt Center/Earth Day Network

Meg Waltner
Manager, Building Energy Policy
Natural Resources Defense Council

Eric Corey Freed
Principle of Organic Architect

Andrea Traber
Integral Group

Richard Piacentini
Executive Director
Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens; Board Member, International Living Future Institute

Richard Graves
Executive Director
International Living Future Institute

Allen Hershkowitz
Senior Scientist
Natural Resources Defense Council

Pauline Souza, AIA, LEED Fellow, LEED AP BD+C
Partner/Director of Sustainability
WRNS Studio

Russell Perry, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C
Vice President
SmithgroupJJR

Robert Phinney, AIA, LEED Fellow, ENV SP, PMP, GGP
Director, Sustainable Design & Energy Services
HDR

Tom Lent
Policy Director, Healthy Building Network

Anthony Bernheim, FAIA, LEED Fellow
President & Co-founder
Bernheim + Dean, Inc.

Loren Aiton,
Director of Sustainability
TETER Architects and Engineers

Jim Ace
Sr. Campaigner, Stop SFI Greenwash
ForestEthics

Lewis Buchner, LEED AP BD+C
President
Buchner Design Studio

Ann V. Edminster
Founder/Principal
Design AVEnues LLC

Sim Van der Ryn
Design Guide/Chief Wizard
EcoDesign Collaborative

Mark MacCracken
CEO
CALMAC

Mike Italiano
CEO (& Co-founder of USGBC)
Capital Markets Partnership & Market Transformation to Sustainability

Bruce King, PE
Director, Structural Engineer
Ecological Building Network

Andrew Goldberg
Director Corporate Engagement
Dogwood Alliance

Lindsey Allen
Executive Director
Rainforest Action Network

Frances Yang
Sustainable Structures and Materials Specialist
Arup

Gregory Hamra
Lorenz Steininger
Ben Oscar Andersson
Sergio Padilla
Ernst Mecke
Lawrence Crowley
Olivia Schlosser
Gerard vanTol
Maud vanTol
Gayle Peterson
William Buchholz
Carol Harley
Jan Dietrick
Alex Stadtner
Bryan Ripka
Bruce Hammon
Ryan McEvoy
Dan Harrington

Stephen Weitz
Anna Louise E. Fontaine
Maria Teresa Schollhorn
Jade Golden
Elizabeth O'Halloran
Victoria Pitchford
Lydia Garvey
Marcus Murphy
Sandra Cobb
Michael Thomas
Cathy Johnson
Cameron Waner
Stephanie Graham
Ivan Weber
Lois Jordan
Harold Meyer Jr
Pete Gang
John Irvine

John Richkus
Heidi Aubrey
Sheila Dillon
Birgit Walch
David Councilman
Debbie Williamson
Barry Thiessen
Kristen Van Tassell
Bodil Ribel
Patricia Orlinski
Joseph Grillo
Rick Wald
Wagner Oliveira
R. Peter Wilcox
Laura Horning
Marian Keeler
Lorraine Alexander

Kathleen Ruiz
Sue Harringron
Nancy Chismar
Jeffrey Hurwitz
Karen Lassen
Kenneth Ruby
Eric Corey Freed
Matthew Franck
Benjamin Krohling
Arlene Dobra
Dawn Albanese
Henry Weinberg
James Mulcare
Claudia Cleaver
Allan Yorkowitz
AniMaeChi Drabic
Jan Dietrick

thomas davisthomas davis