I’m going to borrow from a church hymn for the central theme of this blog. Perhaps you have heard this line sung in your house of worship, or maybe in a movie or TV show. The words are “Be not afraid”.
So often, when facing resistance to green building methods or techniques, it seems to me that the #1 reason for pushback is fear. Specifically, fear of the unknown, though this can be grouped into two sub-categories.
There’s fear of not knowing about a product or technique. This fear is simply based in ignorance. (Note: If you don’t know what ignorance truly means, you should look it up. It’s not nearly as negative as you might think.) In this instance, the person or persons is unfamiliar or uninformed about a particular product or technique. They may not want to outwardly appear this way in front of clients. While at first glance this is understandable, I don’t think anyone should reasonably expect a green building professional to have every single answer. Remember, this is still an emerging and expanding field. Be not afraid… to be honest with your client. If you don’t know, tell them you don’t and that you’ll look into it. This fear (and dilemma) can be overcome by calling on our desire to learn. And we all have that, to varying degrees. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be where we are right now.
(Some people get stuck in their ways, and don’t feel the need to “branch out”. Another manifestation of this behavior is the need to do a little extra work. I think both of these are based more in laziness than fear, but that’s a separate problem.)
The second subcategory is fear of unknown results. I guess another way to say this is unfounded doubt. Has anyone ever heard the following words: “I don’t know if that’s going to work?” Thanks to the Internet, and some of the credible sources of information on there, one can obtain a reasonable expectation of the performance levels of a product, or the viability of a technique. And while no product or person is perfect, I would hope one or two bad experiences wouldn’t deter someone from using/doing something that otherwise has an incredibly high rate of success. Be not afraid. It’s not like you’re embarking on a journey into completely uncharted territory.
A simplistic example of the above might be in the purchase of a light bulb, or an appliance. A traditional bulb, a CFL and LED are all going to provide light. While LEDs are still a few times more expensive than the other two options, the difference in price between an Edison bulb and a CFL is roughly $0.70. If one were to purchase the CFL and not experience the documented energy savings, they’d still have a light bulb and are only out $0.70. Not exactly breaking the bank on that “gamble”, right? When it comes to appliances, it’s pretty hard to not buy an Energy Star appliance these days. And the cost increase isn’t very high, if at all. (An online price check of dishwashers at Sears showed a $20 increase between the lowest priced non-Energy Star model and the lowest priced Energy Star model. That’s less than 10% of the purchase price.) Again, in the unlikely event the machine doesn’t save the energy/money it claims it will, the owner still has a functioning appliance.
Fear can hamstring people or projects, and fear has its place in our existence. But, if we can conquer that fear, whether it be individually or as an industry, imagine the greatness we can accomplish.