Is Home Depot Green Washing?

Alot of talk by big companies has gone on lately about going green: NBC, P&G, Honda, etc. In general I’m incredibly excited and motivated by these efforts; after all I can only have so much impact, but a company that touches thousands if not millions of people each day can multiply good efforts beyond belief. In fact, I’m incredibly excited that my company has increased efforts to get employees to reduce consumption (print less, increase the temperature, turn off lights, etc) and has also stepped up recycling efforts, now including items like batteries and printer cartridges beyond the usual cans and bottles.

The one from my personal experience, though, that I find most ironic is Home Depot.

I’ve been to HD about 5 times in the past week, some times completing just one transaction (buying a draw handle) and some times completing multiple (returning a draw handle and buying a drawer knob). Each time, along w/ my list of products, HD’s address and phone number, the return policy and some marketing material about the 10% guarantee, my receipt contains a survey invitation printed in both English and Spanish that doubles the length of the receipt.

Take my visit earlier today where I needed to exchange five bags of 1 5/8″ screws for five bags of 1 1/2″ screws. This amounted to two transactions (apparently HD registers can’t both purchase and return at the same time…) each of which included a survey invitation.
Is Home Depot Green Washing
This resulted in 4 times the amount of paper necessary to make my exchange.

When he heard my comment about this, the clerk replied, “I know! And they never turn the lights off in the electric department, imagine how much energy we’d save just by flipping off a few of those incandescent light bulbs!”

If it didn’t take 20 minutes, I’d fill out each and every one of those surveys from here out… Hopefully though Home Depot will see enough blog posts like this one to get the picture.


3 Responses to “Is Home Depot Green Washing?”

  1. Update: Interestingly enough, this post was picked up by a Retail Industry publication that, since May, has sent ~180 visitors to the site (and continues to trickle 1 or 2 a month). Maybe one of those visitors will tip off Home Depot and we might see a timer on the lights in the electric department or a limited usage of the gigantic survey invitation on receipt.

    Greenwash vs. Clean Green: Top Retailers Exposed

  2. Marianne Says:

    This may tell you how their program is going. Jocelyn Laurence is their new Eco Options Newsletter Editor. Here is a (my response first) letter she sent me in response to my inquiry about her criteria in an article about choosing eco-friendly cookware.

    Dear Ms. Laurence,
    Thank you for your fast reply – it was fast. What I was trying to say is that we are inundated with green this and green that. We are looking for more content – what is “green”, what makes something “green”, why is something “greener” than something else?

    Hardly anyone out there tells us why something is a greener choice than any another option. Is my All Clad Stainless steel sauté pan as green as the cast iron fry pan? If it isn’t, why not? I bet my stainless steel pan will last as long and as far as I know, the processes used to make it are less toxic to the environment. It probably did travel farther to get to me than my cast iron fry pan – but maybe the manufacturing techniques offset this? Lodge is clearly a better choice than the Le Creuset on the face of it but maybe Lodge isn’t as good at scrubbing the air at their factory? While this kind of depth may be difficult for every story, we want to know more about why you chose what you did for the story. We don’t look to you to give us information on how well they perform because we can get that from Cooks Illustrated or Consumer Reports but we would like to understand why you chose those items as being greener than other similar items. Otherwise, we know that the Le Creuset pot is a good green choice because you said so. We also don’t know if we agree with your findings. We haven’t learned much. What about the million other products you haven’t reviewed?

    Plenty of media outlets and governments are saying that fluorescent lights are better than incandescent but if my mom in Detroit doesn’t know that the fluorescent bulb can’t go in her garbage – it has mercury in it. So if she unknowingly throws it into her normal garbage, it breaks, and the mercury goes into our ground water, is that greener than that incandescent? Who decided this and why? Maybe they are both bad. Which is worse, polluted ground water or using up more electricity? I can’t wait for LED lighting to be more popular so I won’t feel guilty about what light bulb I use. LEDs are clearly better than both. I know this but the general public doesn’t. Let’s tell them!

    If you tell me the Le Creuset is great because it is long lived, uses some recycled materials, and new non toxic and fish friendly coatings, we can compile a store house of knowledge in our heads. Then when we go to the store to buy something we can say to ourselves, “gee, this one has fish friendly coatings, uses 30% recycled materials, and while is not cast iron, it may last awhile.” That might make me buy a greener TV or cell phone or toy. This is worthwhile knowledge to learn and isn’t that what the magazine is about? Otherwise you are like a fashion magazine, predicting that this item is currently considered “trendy” today but tomorrow some other item will be.

    M Grisdale

    From: Jocelyn Laurence []
    Sent: Monday, September 22, 2008 4:28 PM
    Subject: Green Living magazine

    Dear Ms. Grisdale,

    Thanks for your comments. Sorry I’ve taken a while to get back to you, but I wanted to check with both the writer and fact-checker before I responded.

    Regarding our decision-making process, I simply asked the writer to give me a good cross-section of cookware that fulfills various functions and is green. She was assisted by Green Living Enterprises’ in-house researcher, who has been involved in the green world for decades.

    I confess I felt that you saying the article was “sadly lacking in content” was a bit extreme. For a number of the items featured (the Big Green Egg, the Thermal Magic Cooker & Hotpan), explanations were given for how they save energy, and in the non-stick cookware, it is well explained why ceramic is preferable to conventional coatings. We try to provide readers with choices, but we don’t have the resources (or the mandate) of a Consumer Reports-type magazine.

    However, as you must know, there are no easy answers or perfect solutions to green question. Somewhere, at some point in the manufacturing/growing/harvesting/distribution process, there is an inevitable fly in the ointment.

    As for cast iron, I personally think it’s the best of the bunch. I have a cast-iron frying pan that is at least 40 years old and is going strong. Yes, the manufacturing casts a large footprint, but cast-iron cookware is not only something you buy once in your lifetime but also something you hand on to your kids and grandchildren.

    With the benefit of hindsight, I would have emphasized high-quality cast-iron cookware manufactured in North American, to avoid international shipping. And I just yesterday found out that at least one manufacturer (Lodge) is working (successfully) towards more environmentally friendly practices.

    Hope this helps and all the best with your green efforts.


    Jocelyn Laurence

    Green Living magazine
    Green Living Enterprises
    70 The Esplanade, Suite 400
    Toronto, Ontario
    M5E 1R2

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