"He wants green cabinets," Pete said.
"No, not green."
"You said green."
"I meant 'green,' " Pete answered, making quotes with his fingers.
We were sharing some pizzas in the conference room. Pete and Chris sat opposite of Sandra and me. Sandra had been quiet until she heard the word green–with quotes.
"Did you say 'green?' " she asked.
"He said green," Chris replied.
" 'Green,' " Pete corrected him, with those quote motions again.
"I told you so," Sandra told me none too kindly.
Chris excused himself and left the conference room.
"It's one client," I said, grabbing another slice of pepperoni.
"One client today," she said. "The entire country tomorrow. That is how revolution happens."
"Do we have 'green?' " Pete asked.
Chris returned with three color samples from one of our best vendors. He spread them out in front of Pete. "You got celadon, which is kind of green. You got hunter, which is a dark green. And you got green, which is green," Chris said.
"Green is not a color," Sandra explained, standing up and looking for a soap box. "It is a state of mind that respects the fragile resources of our planet by embracing practices and supplies that are energy conscious, renewable, and environmentally friendly. The result is products that are both functional for the consumer and caring for the Earth." She then turned slowly to face me. "And we, as a company, should be doing more to promote green thinking."
Sandra had been talking to me for months about green thinking. She felt strongly about it. She recently completed a course in green construction practices. Sandra felt the company should be promoting green products and services and had been persistent in reminding me of this notion.
While I agreed with Sandra's view of green thinking, I wasn't clear on how it would fit into our business. Honestly, I doubted I was clever enough to market green successfully. When Sandra would push me to exploit the green market, I could only stare back at her like a deer in the headlights of an eco-friendly hybrid car. I just didn't know where to begin. What does a green product look like? How would we market it? What would be its features?
For the sake of Pete's client, we looked into the issue. Much to our surprise, a great number of our products are, in fact, green–we just didn't know it.
The rep for our primary cabinet line told us about the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association's new Environmental Stewardship Program, which sets standards for manufacturing that benefit the environment. The program requires the manufacturer to take substantial steps to control air pollution, use renewable resources, and reduce waste, among other environmentally friendly practices. When applying for certification, the vendor quickly realized it already had been using these practices for years, both out concern for its local community and the environment but also because the practices made good business sense.
For me, that was refreshing news. It suggests that green's place in our industry does not depend on the cleverness of marketers. It is here to stay because, quite simply, it makes sense on a number of levels.
I was also struck by another truth about the emergence of green thinking. There are programs and certification processes out there relevant to our industry but unknown to us, and this reminded me that we all have much to learn about this important topic.
"So we know he wants green, but what color does he want?" Chris asked Pete over the last slice of pizza.
"Salmon," Pete answered.
"That's a fish."
"It's also a color."
"With quotes or without?" Chris asked.
Either way, we didn't have it.
Tad Troilo is a manager for Cranmer's Kitchens by Design in Yardley, Pa.