This issue, we take our first close look at the “green” phenomenon and its impact on the custom electronics industry with our new section “Green Mind,” authored by the always capable, always thoughtful Janet Pinkerton. In the coming months, Janet will examine various aspects of the green movement and how they relate to your business.

I’ve been around the CEDIA channel long enough to know that politically, custom installers range from the extreme left to the hard right. Heck, some of them are even middle-of-the-road. But although the environment and energy efficiency have traditionally been left-of-center issues politically (just count the number of times the historically pejorative term “tree-hugger” is used in Janet’s article), it seems both ends of the political spectrum are realizing the value in green lifestyles and green installations.

Custom installers increasingly see in green an economic opportunity just as much as the warm and fuzzy feeling of doing right by Mother Earth.

They see marketing opportunities, in that “green” is exerting a growing and powerful pull in the marketplace right now, particularly among the type of people who are interested in things like home automation. By offering “green” installations, and just by “talking green,” installers and integrators can make themselves look more attractive and enlightened to potential customers.

Another powerful reaction to the green movement is defensive in nature. Consumer electronics usually are considered energy hogs, and by extension, so are custom installations, which seem to many to be “electronics on steroids” that surely must suck the life out of the electrical grid and run up homeowners’ power bills. By explaining to the marketplace that home automation systems—through their watchful control of climate and power, for example—enable homeowners to more intelligently and efficiently consume energy, custom installations can and should be repositioned as the “green” thing to do. That’s right, you’re “green” already! So why not crow about it, even just a little?

Talking green can also help build bridges between you and interior designers, architects and builders, all of whom have found their work affected and informed by this trend. They’re looking to build green (or greener) homes, and many of them would like to work with like-minded electronics guys. Janet talked to one custom shop that says its green efforts directly led to a new relationship in this fashion.

True, it can sound a little daunting, this green stuff. And you can really go around the bend getting totally crunchy-granola about it, and if that’s the route you decide to take, more power to you! But the fact is—not to be cynical here, either—that “green” is a red-hot buzzword right now. And the fact is that by rethinking your marketing, by realizing that lots of what you already do (such as automation and electronics recycling) makes you more “green” than you might think, by asking questions of your clients about their feelings on the subject, you can become at the very least a “green-friendly” business virtually overnight.

Your personal views on the environment shouldn’t have too much of a bearing on this subject. If you are personally committed to the green movement, then what are you waiting for? Alternatively, if Waste Management—the guys who drive around the smelly trash trucks—can accurately (at least on some levels) position itself as a green business, so can you.

In short, it’s not too hard to be the good guy here, and being the good guy has its rewards. CR