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Is green gold? Marketers seem to think so. But at a time when even coal producers bill their product as the new clean fuel, only a few pioneers in the home improvement industry are positioning their companies, and the products they carry, as green.

“We felt like we are really in the environmental business because what we are all about is saving energy and the process of reducing carbon footprints,” says Frank Mumford, owner of Sir Home Improvements, in Schoolcraft, Mich., describing the company's new “green initiative.”

TOTAL GREEN

The initiative touches all aspects of the business, not just promoting energy-efficient products or putting a new twist on marketing. Mumford had the company certified as a green business by the Institute for Green Business Certification, an environmental management and sustainability consulting firm that helps companies assure they are in compliance with all applicable environmental regulations and implement measures to save resources and reduce waste. Now, for example, the company recycles “all job-related cardboard, aluminum, vinyl, windows, and glass,” Mumford says.

For homeowners, Mumford created a home energy audit/green certification program. “We go through and do the same analysis they'd get if they were building a new home and trying to make it as energy efficient as possible,” he explains. Homeowners get recommendations intended to save energy and money. Much of the analysis has nothing to do with any of the products that the company sells, he adds.

PRODUCT ATTRIBUTES

Schmidt Siding & Window, in Mankato, Minn., launched its green program this spring. The home page of Schmidt's redesigned Web site contains a statement about the company's environmental commitment, and product line descriptions now include a section on green attributes — Renewal by Andersen's Green Seal certification, for instance, or ABC Seamless siding's use of recycled content.

Greening is going on throughout the company, as well, says Dale Brenke, president. “The bags we hand out at home shows are made of recycled materials. At Christmas we mailed compact fluorescent light bulbs to past customers,” he says. The company plans to replace all the bulbs in new customers' homes with energy-saving bulbs.

In greening their companies, these home improvement contractors are thinking long-term, they say. “The thrust isn't so much to drive business now but to position the company for the next 60 years in business,” Brenke says.

Adds Mumford, “It is a natural fit for us and a reflection of our company.”