There Is Nothing Wrong with Earning Green While Doing Green

Posted On: 
Oct 18, 2017
There Is Nothing Wrong with Earning Green While Doing Green

How can design professionals and product manufacturers work together to transition the built environment into a sustainable ecosystem for future generations? I spoke with with Allison Friedman, founder of the online green buiding directory, Rate It Green. We discussed the online platform, it’s impact, and what it can do for the green building community. Rateitgreen is a green building product and service directory, a social network, and industry resource. It is a website that works to connect and inform green builders and green building organizations across the globe.

Devotion: What led you to start rateitgreen?

Allison: It was back in November 2006. We were working on renovating our home. I had heard from someone about ‘green building’ and loved the idea of it. But the best you could say about that project was ‘we tried’. (laughs) We had a lot of struggles to find ‘green’ products. Then we found some, we thought. It said green, but we got badly made products. It was a paint. I won’t name names, but it needed so many coats, and still never really covered like a paint should. We couldn’t find products that had been consumer tested, and green approved. Information was scarce, so I thought about what I needed. I was just graduating business school and looking for my career. It all just kind of came together at once. I really just wanted to create a ‘directory that you could chat in’.

Devotion: You talk about rateitgreen being an ‘information clearinghouse’. Tell me about that.

Allison: When I think of a clearing house I think of an open space where there is a bit of everything in it. Like a big warehouse. You can find everything you need, and it’s all organized into sections.

Devotion: In the online community world, there is already Facebook for the personal, and LinkedIn (where I found you!) for the professional. What makes rateitgreen different?

Allison: I think the answer divides into two ways of answering - traditional resources vs. industry resources. Rateitgreen is a hybrid for the individual who is a hobbyist in green building AND for the professional who is looking to market themselves and information share. It serves a niche. I think that curation is also a separator for rateitgreen. Categorizable conversation allows for spam-less continuation of conversation on just the subjects you desire. The marketing ability on rateitgreen is very special. You manage your individual account separately from your company to allow for autonomy as well as marketing of your company. Professionals, individuals, and companies rating companies and products is also something rateitgreen does that no one else was doing when we started. I'm not sure who else might be offering that now, but I know that our open system with ratings, and the focus on it, is something that makes us stand out in this space. Reviewing each other is such an important part of communication in this space!

Devotion: You list many of the rating systems currently available for design professionals. Do you have a preference?

Allison: I think it’s getting a little confusing. I see that some standards are starting to collaborate now, and I love that. As for me, I value any system that has impact and that people use sincerely. I think we need to be grateful to the early rating systems and those who started this. We should be grateful because they got this going, and starting the conversation. I try to keep this platform open, with conversations and reviews. We have had someone rate a rating system, which I thought was awesome.

Devotion: Did you find any pushback from design professionals or green building organization communities?

Allison: Pushback was and still is (a little) being received from being rated publicly. Early on, there was pushback against sharing info because of their concern about their 'secret sauce', like if they share their information then everyone would do it, but it’s more open now. I believe it began with info sharing like on rateitgreen. The biggest open door was wanting to share with potential clients. That’s a big part of what we do, allow for marketing.

Devotion: What do you think is the biggest hurdle is in the green building community?

Allison: A fear of backlash (greenwashing) holds some people and companies back from communication. Lack of time is another hold back. Giving of yourself in time to give a review, to share information, is one of the hardest things for people to do in the professional community. Biggest hurdle? Getting people to know that you are there, then you can inspire. It’s the biggest hurdle for our information platform, product manufacturers, and service providers. Getting people to know you are here. How do you market in today’s busy environment? It’s not easy.

Devotion: What are the benefits of communicating between each other for design professionals in the green building space?

Allison: Knowing that you are impacting the green building environment. Information sharing is a great way to impact others in this space. Learning is another great benefit to information sharing. Marketing. You are directly sharing content that will bring them back to you. Expanding your networks is another way to market. I can go on and on. It’s so beneficial!

Devotion: Do product manufacturers have a home at rateitgreen alongside their design professional counterparts?

Allison: Absolutely! Product manufacturers were some of the first ones to sign on. We welcome manufacturers! We welcome the growth of the green marketplace. We want them to share information and find clients. More than that, find clients who are a great match for you. It’s one of the ways that rateitgreen is different. Promote yourself! Promote your company! There is nothing wrong with earning green while doing green. There should not be adversarial relationships between design professionals and product manufacturers. We’re here to help people buy green confidently.

Devotion: In a world where everyone is connected, does rateitgreen provide significant support to the green building movement?

Allison: The answer to that is a reverse. That world doesn’t exist yet, but we are trying to become part of creating that world. We don't yet have a fully connected green building movement, but I want to be part of making that world happen.

For more information about the Rate It Green platform, please visit: Special thanks to Allison Friedman for her time and thoughtful discourse.

* This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

For more information or to discuss the topic of this blog, please contact Brad Blank