I attended the NWFA Convention in San Diego last month and I was struck by the lack of either green discussion or general green-themed advertising.

Everywhere you turned a few years ago, you'd find something "themed green," stating something positive in terms of a product's relationship to LEED, as well as sustainability, renewability, and general hugability. Now, while some booths, products and catalogs noted green attributes, it was much more understated and matter of fact. FSC was no longer rare, CARB was the norm, and Lacey was accepted as the law of the land under which we all operate.

I could be cynical and suggest that indicates the green movement has come and gone. I could despair that nobody cares any more. But I don't.

Instead, I think that this is a demonstration that the industry now recognizes that green is the default condition for our products. I think it shows that no one needs to state the obvious-that by far and away, the great majority of all of our products represent the finest, safest, healthiest and most sustainable of all building materials. From their long lives of services to us, to their ever better conditions of manufacture that use less power, less water, less wood, and safer chemicals, hardwood floors are fundamentally green.  

I attended the Manufacturer Forum on the last day, where there was a presentation on the UHP's (United Hardwood Promotion) PR campaign. The speaker said something which struck me as rather significant. He spoke of how steel companies and car companies use trees in their logos, how chemical companies use leaves to show they are environmentally conscious, how every industry "wants to be us except us." Everyone wanted to be like the wood industry-green and with good management, working with a resource that is potentially sustainable forever. They all used our raw material to advertise their good-but non-wood-related attributes. Somehow slapping a tree logo on a steel and rubber car that pushes carbon into the atmosphere every day it runs on the limited quantity of dead dinosaurs we have left makes it seem more environmentally friendly, while the carbon-sequestering wood industry remains regularly on the defensive about the selective harvesting of a renewable resource. No one seems to accept that we are green by the very (pardon the pun) nature of our business.

We can always make ourselves greener in some ways and we can follow programs and regulations that provide demonstration of our green nature, but I think we should take the lack of screaming green at the NWFA as a good sign. I hope it shows the industry's finally proud acceptance that we don't have to scream out defensively, waving flags everywhere. State it calmly and move on. We ARE green. It's our default condition.

Elizabeth Baldwin has over 20 years of international wood sourcing experience. Very widely traveled, her résumé's "Special Skills" section includes "the ability to eat anything from raw horse to deep-fried scorpion." She serves as Metropolitan Hardwood Flooring's (metrofloors.com) ECO (Environmental Compliance Officer) and deals daily with the "green alphabet soup" of today's industry: FSC, CARB, LEED, and much more. She blogs for Hardwood Floors on all things green (and, as she says, " 'grey' and 'blue' and almost every color except 'black and white.' Nothing in this world is black and white, particularly not 'green issues.'")