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Salesmanship: Going green

by Warren Tyler

I have to admit it. I’m a cynic. Ever since the green movement began I’ve seen every effort at conservation or to go green has had unintended consequences.

With me, it all started with the spotted owl and “old growth forests.” Environmentalists stopped all logging in these forests while allowing logging to continue in “new growth forests.” Unintended consequence: Scientists found that the spotted owl breeds only in new growth forests. The biggest boondoggle is Ethanol, formulated to cut gas consumption, but it has come to be known that without government subsidies it would be far too expensive for use as fuel. Ten percent Ethanol in your tank robs you of gas mileage. It has been proven to ruin marine and garden engines. Because so much corn is used to make this product, it can make many food products more expensive as well.

One-gallon flush toilets never made sense because two or three flushes may be required. HOV lanes provide easy traveling for the very few while thousands of other cars stand still pouring tons of carbon wastes into the air. I learned that the cadmium and nickel used to manufacture batteries for hybrid cars is mined in Canada, shipped to Europe for processing, then to China for foaming and back again for manufacturing. The result: It takes three to five times more energy to make a Prius than a Hummer! And then where do we dump all those huge toxic batteries when they wear out? You didn’t think they were good forever, did you?

Don’t forget the neurosis brought on by environmentalists’ scare tactics. One customer had to leave a carpet store every 10 minutes because the formaldehyde in the carpet was making her sick. There could be no explaining to her that carpet manufacturers haven’t used the chemical for 22 years. I also think of the funeral directors I’ve known who literally bathed in formaldehyde for years. I’ve read articles that state that just one asbestos fiber (a natural fiber mined in Vermont) inhaled would definitely lead to mesothelioma. Like all old installers, I remember standing in clouds of the stuff while sanding floors after removing linoleum.

Be that as it may, many consumers want green and most are willing to make sacrifices to get it. When a customer has been sold on cork as renewable, there is no talking her out of it. I always thought trees were renewable. Living in Vermont we had to cut them down every few years to maintain the view. Another inconvenient fact is that there are twice as many forested acres in the lower 48 states today as in 1900.

When consumers think green, that is what they want. All flooring products have a green story. Being in retail means to display and provide products that customers want. Cork, bamboo, strand bamboo, sisal and other renewables demand space in your showroom. Even laminates have a green story. Some laminates use 70% reclaimed materials in manufacturing the core. Carpet manufacturers have made great strides by using waste products on one end and re-manufacturing on the other end. Our industry is among the most advanced in recycling. It would be extra nice to start using wool, the ultimate renewable fiber as well as the best performer.

Retailers who research and find an environmental story on each of their products and train their people in selling green would have a huge leg-up on their competition in this difficult economy. Plus, you will have earned the air of superiority that the environmentally correct seem to affect so blatantly.