Bruce Irving puts Green Building in Perspective

Our friend Bruce Irving who’s blazing his own trail and started a new industry in home remodeling, writes one of the most informative home improvement newsletters available. Here’s a excerpt from his latest where he’s shed some light on the hypocrisy of some green building techniques and offers his recommendations of green builders that do it right.

“Truth is, I’ve been a skeptic about many aspects of the green building movement. My eyebrow arches when, for example, someone uses bamboo flooring (which is held together with lots and lots of glue, often containing formaldehyde, and is shipped to the US on bunker-oil-burning ships) to floor a new “green” 11,000 sq. ft. house. Tough too to get on board when magazines feature low-VOC paints on one page and walk-in showers with multiple heads and bodywashers on another. Greenwashing, marketing whatever’s hot, and just trying to make ourselves feel better as we change almost nothing about our consumption habits–the suspicion of these plus the thought that a year’s worth of green living is negated by 2 minutes operation of a coal-powered electricity plant…you get the picture.”
“But after my time in the desert of cynicism, I’ve been reminded that every little bit helps, and just because larger forces are at work doesn’t mean we do nothing as individuals–as long as we keep lobbying against the big stuff, like coal-powered electricity plants.”
Three Good Sources for Green Building Products
1. For folks in the Boston area, F.D. Sterritt Lumber in Watertown, Mass., was the first retail lumberyard in New England to receive FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) chain of custody certification, and after a slow start, business has grown 200% since 2005. Jack Mackin, third-generation operator, and his partner Clayton Schuller stock FSC-certified hardwoods and plywood, a full line of low-VOC adhesives and caulking. Their lastest green product is a heavy-metal-free pressure-treated lumber called Wolmanized L3 Outdoor
2. A spinoff of the traditional building supply company MarJam, Green Depot has been around since 2005 and has five showrooms with 15 distribution centers up and down the East Coast. They report a customer-push situation–with homeowners leading the charge into non-toxic cleaning products, paints, adhesives, carpets and other low-VOC products . Conservation of natural resources comes in second as a topic of concern, leading customers to choose plant-based (rather than petroleum-derived) products such as bamboo, cork and FSC-certified wood flooring, as well as natural linoleum.
As an aside, I’m a huge fan of linoleum, having seen it manufactured and knowing you could probably eat it for breakfast, it’s so natural. It also wears like iron. One brand worth checking out is Marmoleum (
3. And in Braintree, Massachusetts, is GreenSource Supply and Design, where founder/CEO Robert Botelho makes a point of vetting each and every product he sells, often to the point of visiting the plant. I met him at this year’s Building Energy trade show in Boston, and he impressed me with his intimate knowledge of green products and how they’re made. (new site under construction.)

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