Greenwashers Seek To Ban LEED Standard In North Carolina

The Conservative effort to discredit anything even remotely associated with a progressive point of view has reached a fever pitch. Rather than focus on getting anything practical accomplished, right wing politicians have instead embarked in a quest to rid America from the dire threat of green building practices.

In Kansas, there’s a bill that would outlaw anything deemed “sustainable development” because we all know stuff like solar panels and energy efficient lighting is part of a secret activist plot to take over the world. Now, North Carolina (a state that is trying to make sea level rise illegal. Think about that.) has introduced a bill that would ban the LEED green building standard because it refuses to acknowledge a forestry certification program that’s a known front for the logging industry.

As you know, wood is a big part of building. A big part of LEED is making sure that wood used to create buildings comes from sustainably logged forests. The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) claims to provide such materials, but is in fact completely controlled by some of the logging industry’s worst offenders. Self-regulation is a sticky affair, and as such, the SFI is very controversial.

In fact, the only forest certification scheme acknowledged by LEED is the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). And advocates of SFI (aka Big Logging) find this unfair. So they went to the USGBC, asking it to treat the SFI as an equally viable certification program even though it’s not. The USGBC voted on it, and ultimately rejected the request. This made SFI mad, so they decided to use North Carolina’s  preference for outlawing things they don’t like (aka climate change) to teach the USGBC a lesson.

“Having been defeated in the attempt to lower the standards of LEED, special interests are targeting politically friendly states in an attempt to destroy it,” reports the Environmental Paper Network. “Today they are pushing state-level legislation that bans the use of LEED in public projects.  You can read an extensive breakdown of the battles in state capitols here. This week, ground zero is North Carolina.”

It sounds absurd: “Building designs that save energy and improve indoor air quality, we don’t want that around these parts!” But before you laugh, consider that last week, Florida  a bill passed that blocked LEED certification because of this same issue.

Are you a resident of North Carolina? Contact your representative on this issue through an advocacy page set up by the North Carolina Green Building Council, and tell them to keep LEED free of corporate greenwashing.

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog

    • Florida Forest Stewardship

      The “greenwashing” described in this and other articles written by some environmental advocates is very misleading. By characterizing the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and other bona fide forest certification systems as guided by “big logging” or otherwise unsustainable, these groups are essentially closing the door on those who are working toward the same goals and shooting themselves in the foot in the process. Like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), SFI is an independent certification system guided by a diverse group of stakeholders from the environmental commuity, private non-industrial landowners, forest products industry, academic and professional foresters, and labor. Also like FSC, SFI is recognized by international standards organizations such as the Program for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). By discrediting SFI and its internationally endorsed chain of custody, LEED and these few but vocal “environmental” advocates are turning their backs on wood produced by a vast network of private non-industrial landowners and the professional forestry community. Most in this community share a very strong conservation ethic and are equally concerned about forest sustainability. They are also ignoring the fact that professional foresters in the academic and industrial sectors are the best source of guidance on sustainable forestry. This is what they do every day. There is nothing wrong with FSC but those who try to lead us to believe that FSC is the only credible forest certification system would also have us believe that the lawyers and political advisors of a few environmental organizations should guide sustainable forestry. These groups will soon learn, as many other credible environmental organizations have already, that professional foresters are their best ally in the mission toward forest sustainability.

    • SFIProgram

      Contrary to your assertions, SFI Inc. is an independent, nonprofit organization governed by a three-chamber board of directors representing environmental, social and economic sectors equally. Our bylaws require a two-thirds majority, so the notion that the forestry industry “controls” SFI is not true.

      Our board members include accomplished academics, conservationists, leaders in community development and government officials as well as landowners, forest professionals and tree farmers – reflecting the variety of interests in the forestry community. SFI representatives listen to and engage with diverse groups in standard development and program activities because only with collaboration and respect among all forest stakeholders can we successfully ensure our forests thrive for generations to come.

      The SFI 2010-2014 Standard promotes sustainable forest management in North America through 14 core principles that promote sustainable forest management, including measures to protect water quality, biodiversity, wildlife habitat, species at risk, and Forests with Exceptional Conservation Value. There are also 20 objectives, 38 performance measures and 115 indicators, developed by professional foresters, conservationists, scientists and others.

      Note also that SFI is a standards-setting organization, not a certification body. Certification to the SFI Standard is conducted by independent, third-party auditors. These certification bodies are accredited by the American National Standards Institute, the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board and/or the Standards Council of Canada. To ensure complete independence, SFI has no role in determining whether a certificate gets granted or not.

      For anyone interested in improving SFI’s Standard, we invite you to participate in our Standard Review process, which kicked off this week and will develop the new 2015-2019 Standard. The process includes two public comment periods and a series of public workshops across North America.

      Learn more at http://www.sfiprogram.org/ and http://www.sfiprogram.org/BuySFI.

      Kathy Abusow
      President & CEO
      Sustainable Forestry Initiative Inc.