We're going to continue a look at the "Sins of Greenwashing" for the wood flooring industry, a concept created by the good folks at TerraChoice Environmental Marketing Inc. We have three sins to go out of the seven they've currently identified.

If I were looking for "Irrelevance" in the case of wood flooring, I might ask why product with an HDF core would indicate in big letters that it contains "Rapidly Renewable" material that could "contribute to LEED," when the actual applicable content is perhaps 10% of the volume. Yes, perhaps the product does contain some aspen fiber or chips from a plantation pine that would qualify as rapidly renewable, but at 10% content of the core alone, it does not automatically make this a "green" floor.

I might also wonder about a solid floor stamped "Urea Formaldehyde Free!" Urea formaldehyde content is an issue with glues, but very, very rarely a consideration with finishes-so since a solid floor contains no glue, I would assume it contains no urea formaldehyde. While the claim that this product has no UF may be true, is it relevant?  These days, generally aren't all solid floors UF-Free?

The "Lesser of Two Evils" is an interesting concept, but I find it difficult to think of a common example for it within the flooring industry. The sin is defined as presenting a positive aspect while ignoring the fact that the entire concept has any number of overwhelming negatives associated with it. One of the examples the website gives is organic cigarettes. Organic may be great, but cigarettes definitely are not. In the case of flooring, I am hard to put to find something where there are overwhelming negatives about any one category. I don't think we have a product category that I could consider "the cigarettes" of wood flooring. Can anyone out there think of a product type that they would consider fundamentally non-green?

The last sin, "Fibbing" is easy to understand-it's a lie. I don't have to find flooring-specific samples (and I don't name names here, good or bad!) for everyone to understand what a lie would be. I would encourage anyone discovering an NWFA member in a blatant lie to report them to the association (or any other associations with which they claim to have a membership). Most organizations would note that lying goes against their preferred codes of conduct for members.

What other sins have you seen? Can you look at your own company and your own promotional material and declare it greenwash-free?

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.'")