Recently, a friend pointed out to me that the word “green” has been banned. “Banned?” I said, “By who?” Well, it turns out that “green” has made it in onto the annual List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness. This list, published annually since 1976 by Lake Superior State University, has been noticed by people from around the world, who have, in turn, sent in numerous other nominations, such as “you know,” “user friendly,” and “at this point in time.” Writes Ed Hardiman of Bristow, Va: “If I see one more corporation declare itself ‘green,’ I’m going to start burning tires in my backyard.”The word GREEN seems to have received the most nominations of all for 2009, along with “going green,” building green,” green technology,” green solutions,” and other similar phrases. Other words which made the list are “carbon footprint,” “carbon offsetting,” “maverick,” “iconic,” “game changer,” and, my personal favorite, “bailout.” “Use of emergency funds to remove toxic assets from banks’ balance sheets is not a bailout. When your cousin calls you from jail in the middle of the night, he wants a bailout,” writes Ben Green, of State College, Pa.

Perhaps some people object to these words because they just don’t understand the concept. Mike of Chicago wrote in to say that when he hears the phrase “carbon footprint,” he envisions “microscopic impressions on the surface of the earth where an atom of carbon forgot to wear its shoes.” Some of these words seem to be tied to political or philosophical viewpoints that are somewhat controversial. After all, we do live in a polarized society, with some Americans believing in more domestic oil exploration so that they can afford to drive their SUV, while others believe that we should be driving solar powered “smart” cars (by the way, “smart” is a word that I soon may have to nominate) through miles and miles of green forest as we gaze out the window in search of the endangered Greater Sage Grouse.

Several months ago, I was giving a presentation on energy-efficient windows to an audience of window dealers who I was told (by the sales manager) was highly interested in green. So, I brought out the whole carbon footprint equation. Most of the people in the seminar were highly interested in learning about this and maybe using it in their sales approach. However, there was one guy who vehemently spoke out and told me that he simply did not want to hear it at all. “We are not selling politics,” he said, “but we are trying to sell windows!” At the risk of alienating half my audience, I assured him that I was not trying to brainwash him into going outside to hug the nearest tree. “I am, in fact, a staunch Republican,” I proclaimed, but “above all else,” I said, “I am a salesman!” I explained that one needs to be open minded enough to learn about green because about half the people that you will be selling to will be highly interested in it. “The real trick,” I said, “is to figure out which type you are dealing with before going in.”

So, after seeing the list, I have come to realize that perhaps some of these words were nominated because they have sort of an “in your face” type of connotation. Perhaps we need to do a better job of soft selling the environmental advantages in order to appear more politically neutral. For example, when we talk about the environmental advantage, we need to stress that it is a long term approach, and we certainly don’t want to make our prospective buyer feel guilty for letting that heat escape when he or she opened the window earlier in the day to let in some fresh air. And I guess learning to be open to all viewpoints is part of what makes sales fun. The ability to set aside one’s own opinions and to instead focus upon the needs and wants of the prospective buyer, and to present all the ways our product fulfills these needs and desires.

So, having said all of that, why don’t we just propose a “bailout” for the window industry? Let’s all write to our congressperson, and propose legislation to put government subsidized “green” window technology into every American home in an effort to help offset “carbon footprints.” Just think of the jobs it will create, the energy it will save, and the carbon offsetting that will occur.

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