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The National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) likes to issue press releases with headlines like the following:

Real Wood Floors: Wood Flooring is Green (March 14, 2008)

Wood Floors Are Green (June 13, 2008)

Of course, the NWFA is in the business of promoting wood flooring, so one might expect a little spin on the environmental benefits of their product. However, this is an age of sophisticated consumers and the NWFA would be well advised to tone down its rhetoric and put some metrics to their highly generalized claims. As noted in earlier posts, they will soon have to support their claims with scientific evidence, so why don’t they start now before they lessen their credibility with consumers.

Take for example this statement from June 13 release:

“Wood flooring is the only option that is completely sustainable. It comes from a factory called the forest, and uses renewable energy called the sun.” Corny metaphors notwithstanding, the problem with the claim is that in many actual cases, the claim is false. Since environmental benefits (and harms) arise from actual practices, it does little good to make a statement of a principle without clarifying how its applied. Sustainability is a complex issue, and if a specific hardwood floor is made from a sustainable forest, that needs to be identified as such – not generalized to cover all cases and so mislead the consumer.

Next consider the statement in the same release that says:

To truly recognize a product’s “greenness” one must look at its entire life cycle, from cradle to grave. It’s not a matter of simply whether the raw materials can be replaced quickly, but how those materials are used when making a finished product, and what happens to them once their useful life is over.”

Truer words could hardly be spoken (except perhaps to recognize some life cycles are cradle to cradle, recognizing the principle of reincarnation I suppose). Life cycle assessments are what I have been advocating in previous posts. The problem here is that the NWFA presents itself as a champion of this approach, and then pulls off an incredible PR whopper when its latest sponsored “life cycle” report on Hardwood flooring came out in April 2008.

I’ll look at this in my next post.

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Colin Laughlan