A Closer Look At Home Depot's "Eco Options" Program

Is Home Depot’s much-advertised PR darling “Eco Options” program an example of green washing or a genuine good? The NYT attempts to find out by interviewing Ron Javis, Home Depot’s senior vice president overseeing the Eco Options program.

Jarvis enjoys highlighting the exclusive nature of the program by scoffing at products whose manufacturers lobbied for inclusion:

“In somebody’s mind, the products they were selling us were environmentally friendly,” said Ron Jarvis, a Home Depot senior vice president who oversees the Eco Options program.

But not in his mind.

“Most of what you see today in the green movement is voodoo marketing,” he added. “If they say their product makes the sky bluer and the grass greener, that’s just not good enough.”

By the standards of Mr. Jarvis — who fertilizes his own home garden with a liquefied worm waste product packaged in recycled soda bottles and fills his swimming pool with salt water to avoid putting chlorine into the environment — only 2,500 of the products made the cut.

One of the problems Jarvis faces is a lack of a definition of what “green” means. Recycled materials? Made of corn? Sustainable manufacturing? Energy saving? No one, not even the Senior Vice President in charge of Eco Options, knows for sure. —MEGHANN MARCO

At Home Depot, How Green Is That Chainsaw? [NYT]
(Photo: Maulleigh)

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  1. superlayne says:

    Hey! Its the Worm Poo guys! How did their lawsuit with Miracle Grow turn out?

  2. banned says:

    I’ll define “GREEN”. It means environmentally-friendly, which means doing your best to reduce waste. It’s a real simple definition. It means using technology to reduce/eliminate carbon emissions, to avoid dumping chemicals into the streets and lakes, and to not package with mass waste. Basically, Green in a true sense means doing less damage than the environment can recover from. It also means sacrificing profit from time to time to make the world a better, cleaner place.

  3. tozmervo says:

    This is a great article. As a green-conscience architect, I can completely identify with the lack of real standards for identifying truly “green” products. No matter what company or building supplier may be involved, they can all tout some kind of sustainable feature of their product.

    We really do have to take the entire product cycle into account before an accurate comparison can be made. Material extraction, refinement, production, transportation, installation, waste and maintenance are all elements of the material itself that have to be considered.

    And each of those steps is its own complicated comparison. Extraction – are we talking renewable materials? Are there serious environmental implications to extracting the material? Does extraction require a great deal of energy? If its wood, what kind of wood? Old growth? Mass-grown? There are a number of services that claim to be sustainable wood certifiers, what’s the most trustworthy/reliable, and why? (if you’re curious, the Forest Stewardship Council is currently recognized by the USGBC as the benchmark).

    So yeah. Being green isn’t as easy as buying up stuff that has “green,” “sustainable,” or “eco-friendly” on the package.

  4. jaredharley says:

    @rocnrule:

    It means using technology to reduce/eliminate carbon emissions, to avoid dumping chemicals into the streets and lakes, and to not package with mass waste.

    So are CFLs, by your definition, green? They use less energy, yes (thereby attaining “reducing carbon emissions,” but what about the packaging they come in? I think the hard plastic containers CFLs come in are more wasteful than the old paper ones for regular bulbs. And of course, let’s not forget all of the chemicals used to make CFLs (including that “deadly” mercury inside…)

    There is no good definition of what “green” truly means. When I see a green product, I have to wonder what angle the company is trying to advertise on me in the first place. I don’t use CFLs in my house because they use less energy, because they’ll save the world, or because they’re “green” – I use CFLs because regular bulbs put off too much heat, and I prefer the CFL light output to that of an incandescent bulb.

  5. Bay State Darren says:

    I honestly confess: I don’t shop green or recycle, and I occasionally litter. And yes, I’m a liberal.

  6. K J says:

    I also confess, I sorta shop green, I do recycle, and my family often goes on walks to pick up litter around the neighborhood. And I’m a red state conservative.

    I hope this Home Depot green movement, along with a possible return to better customer service, continues. I’ve had some rather unpleasant experiences with our local Lowe’s and the smaller competition tends to have inferior products at higher prices.

  7. kerry says:

    While there’s no right way to determine if something is fully “green,” I feel like anything that will encourage consumers to think about the impact their purchases have on the environment is at least a step in the right direction, if not a total revolution. I just worry that folks will be lazy, and buy the product that says it’s environmentally-friendly without really thinking about any of the factors tozmervo mentioned. Just like how people will blindly buy products with big “no trans fat!” labels thinking they’re buying something healthy, when chances are it’s still poison.

  8. loueloui says:

    Wait a second. Isn’t this the same Home Depot who lobbied congress to reject a bill that established Energy Star ratings for ceiling fans?
    Oh right it is! [www.environmentcolorado.org] Because who wants to be stuck with a bunch of ceiling fans without an energy star label when you can just foist them on the American Public.

    Strangely this is the same batch of ceiling fans that Home Depot also lobbied congress to have declared exempt from international tarrif. Way to subvert our national laws for fun and profit Home Despot!

  9. bbbici says:

    @Bay State Darren:

    And you feel you have the morals to criticize my opinion? I think i understand now.

  10. SexCpotatoes says:

    Well, heck, that guy must be colorblind. He’s fucked because he can’t tell you what’s green…