Christopher Parr, Consumer Marketing VP for Sub-Zero and Wolf, on Green Appliances and Kitchens


Photo credit: Sub-Zero

As the Consumer Marketing Manager of Sub-Zero and Wolf, Christopher Parr knows what people want in their kitchens, and knows what it takes for a fridge to be green. We had a chance to chat with him about Sub-Zero's idea of green, the green kitchen inspiration video series -- we recently interviewed architect Michael McDonough about the same -- and how to get the greenest performance out of your appliances.

TreeHugger: We talk a lot about taking meaningful green action to reduce our collective and individual footprints. Where should kitchen appliances fit in to that model?Christopher Parr: Well, for us, it's a lot of things; it's the DNA of the company. I won't say the products are over-engineered, but we really try to pay attention to details. Talk to a Sub Zero owner, for example, and a lot of times, you'll hear that they've had the same product for 20 or 30 years, just having to occasionally replace a part or two. So product longevity is an important part of that.

The other aspect is Sub Zero's dual-refrigeration, which we invented about 50 years ago, and helps your food last longer, and is much more efficient than single-compressor units. For us, it's about food preservation; if your food is lasting longer, that means a lot less waste.

Beyond that, we just revamped our entire built-in line, and have some new technology that's being implemented at Whole Foods and NASA, among others. It actually scrubs the air and really purifies the air in the refrigerators so the produce lasts longer.

So, our products are well-made, and we're dedicated to making food fresher longer, but I also wanted to mention that all of our products are made here in America, which is unusual in our industry. All of our products are made in Madison, WI, and we're proud that we're able to provide living wages to all of our employees. Beyond that, 75 percent of the stainless steel used in our products is from recycled material. And, of course, Energy Star compliance is part of that equation as well -- we're trying to keep a couple years ahead of their regulations -- but it's about longevity of the product and really functioning at a high level, keeping your food fresh, too.


Sub-Zero's green kitchen. Image credit: Sub-Zero
TH: As green has increased in popularity, we've seen more and more well-marketed campaigns and slick green ads and such, touting various companies and products' various green accomplishments. How do you rise above the fray to really show that you're green? And how do you respond to skepticism about the products, and folks who are wary of greenwashing?

CP: Well, it's been really interesting for us to see that landscape change. Our practices haven't changed over the past 60 years, really -- those ideas that I mentioned above have always been a core part of what we do, and we've always been a really sincere company, and so we don't need to tout all these green things we're doing.

But, as we saw other companies who had, in our eyes, lesser green credentials, bringing products to market and touting them as such, we started to think that we really needed to stand behind what we were doing. So, for us, it wasn't a matter of jumping on the bandwagon, and more a matter of just explaining the facts [pdf].

The Kitchen Inspirations series was a great example of our approach to this. To have somebody like Michael McDonough, who's certainly been an innovator in this space, who is just passionate about these products because we are sincere. When the products are worth it, people will come out and support them; not because they're paid to, but because they want to, and they believe in them. That sincerity shows, I think, with people like Michael, who have used our products for a long time; he did the research and felt strongly about using them. So that kind of authentic endorsement is great.

TH: You briefly mentioned greenwashing as an increasing problem in the industry that has come with the rise in popularity for all things green. How does that affect the way that you think about creating products? How do you answer those who might say that you're greenwashing?

CP: The main thing is the sincerity of our products. The Energy Star logo is part of it, but I know that the engineering team here is not just looking at the requirements to be certified right now, but at what it takes years down the road, and they're trying to beat those expectations. So it's not just talk, we're very sincerely going to try to deliver that above-standard performance.

TH: Another byproduct of the increase in popularity of all things green is the increase in reliance on 3rd party certifications, like Energy Star, to help folks quanify green choices. Two questions for you: Why should someone choose a Sub-Zero over another, more efficient Energy Star model? And, since there aren't really any reliable green metrics for stoves in the U.S., why should green consumers choose a Wolf stove?

CP: The thing I always go back to is the longevity, both of the product and of the food that you put in your refrigerator. You're going to have a product that you won't have to replace in three to five years. So, it's both a performance thing and a lifespan thing, and I think that goes a long way; we've become such a disposable society, where we throw things out pretty quickly, where appliances and gadgets aren't designed and built to last. So many things aren't well-made anymore, and that's a really important consideration when it comes to something like a refrigerator that you use every single day.

And, when it comes to the stoves, in Canada, they do rate electric stoves for energy efficiency, and four of our products meet the requirements for those ratings. And the same thing goes for Wolf, when it comes to design and longevity; they're absolutely made to last.

TH: What tips do you have for people who want to get the greenest possible performance out of their appliances?

CP: There's a lot to be said for shopping locally and finding the freshest source of food possible; I've found that buying food from farmers' markets makes a big difference. And, where you put that food in the fridge can make a positive difference, too; keeping it full of foods that require refrigeration can help it operate much more efficiently. But, again, probably the greenest thing you can do is not have to replace your appliances every few years.

Christopher Parr is Sub-Zero & Wolf's Consumer Marketing Manager. Learn more about Sub-Zero & Wolf's green initiatives at Subzero.com.

Tags: Appliances | Kitchens | Local Food | TH Interview