Green builder Steve Bertasso
Green builder Steve Bertasso

The environment. Energy efficiency. Green. Sustainability. These are terms we hear every day in the media, but does anyone really understand what it all means? New logos, ad campaigns, and feature articles have driven us to explore many companies, their products, and their claims of environmental responsibility. Yet we still are not sure if what they are saying is correct. As such, most of us have quickly learned to be on the lookout for “greenwashing,” the practice in which a company exaggerates the eco-friendly qualities of its product. But there’s yet another term with which we may not be as familiar: environmental elitism. In a general sense, elitists are any group or individual who feels superior to society as a whole because of their beliefs and values. In ancient and modern civilizations alike, elitists strive to show the world its flaws and prescribe the solutions for correction.

In reference to the environment, elitists would have you believe that simply existing on this planet is a detriment to the ecology of our world, and you must “green” everything today. Rather than praising products that are moving toward green, elitists demonize them for not doing enough. We are bombarded with stories criticizing another vehicle, store, product, or way of living. Imagine walking someone through your home, sharing with them measures you have taken to save energy: compact florescent lights, Energy Star appliances, better filters, programmable thermostats, etc. Rather than encouraging you, they ask why you haven’t upgraded to geothermal heat, installed a solar array, or opted for waterless toilets in your home. Rarely do we hear of the many things we do and see every day that are improving our world. Why are there so many varying opinions of what is right and wrong in our newly found environmentalism? 

While it would be great if we could all enact every environmentally friendly step this instant, it’s just not logistically, monetarily, or physically possible. But even though we can’t do it all, the economic and ecologic impact of small changes by everyone will far outweigh an instant, complete green makeover by a few.

Rather than focusing on the elitist agenda, wouldn’t we all be better served learning about and adopting Shades of Green? Shades of Green is simple: Do what you can today and then do better tomorrow. It supports the movement to be environmentally conscious, but in a way that is feasible. Over time, your own Shade of Green will evolve as you make more environmentally sound choices. Your next car is more fuel-efficient. Your next home is closer to work and Energy Star certified. You replace outdated appliances and electronics with energy-efficient models. If you have land, you plant an organic garden.

Society is so focused on shocking stories and combative media, we rarely rally at the successes we see every day. Stop listening to the elitist agenda and starting adding shades of green to your life. Encourage your place of business to recycle. Perform a home energy audit. Teach your children to be ecologically responsible by saving water. Plant a garden. At work, start implementing green building practices into the homes you build, even if it’s one level of the NAHB or LEED standard at a time.

What is your Shade?

Steve Bertasso is a 15-year veteran of the home building industry and has spent the last two years studying and implementing green building practices. Tennessee-based Bertasso is active in the sustainability community, including serving as a green building consultant, authoring a green building blog, writing op-ed pieces, and conducting training. He also is writing several books. Read his blog at and follow him on Twitter at