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.
Ray Tonjes Builder, Inc.
The Vinyl Institute
Stephen Del Percio
Resilient Floor Covering Institute
Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture
Jeff Hrivnak, Ph.D.
Solvay Specialty Polymers
Dr. Charles Kibert, Ph.D., P.E.
University of Florida
Mitsubishi Cooling and Heating
Whole Foods Market
Dan Murphy, PE
Steven Straus, P.E.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.