Just as the words “fresh” and “natural” have become marketing buzzwords with the foods that we consume, so too have “green” and “eco-friendly” become the defining jargon for the building products we purchase. Truly “green” products can increase rental or resale value of property and lower operating costs, but how can you be sure you’re selecting the right ones?
For the All Eco Design Center, we define green or eco-friendly within at least four tenants:
We also look at other attributes, such as durability and life cycle or “cradle to cradle,” but for the sake of this article, we will focus on the four listed above.
How exactly can you prove that a product is green or eco-friendly?
While we always delight in advising our clients, we also like to emphasize that the person selling you the product should be the last source you trust.
Luckily there are third party certifying, labeling, claim verifying, and rating organizations that utilize complex systems with science-based criteria for determining if a product qualifies. Take the information provided by these organizations, combined with your own research, to make decisions as to how “green” a product is.
The first, and most important, refers to your air quality. This off gassing of products is measured by what is called a VOC or “volatile organic compound.” This has been described as the strong odors associated with harsh chemicals and materials. Look for a Zero or low VOC rating.
How do you know? Look for the Green Guard Certification, FloorScore, OSHA Indoor Air Quality Certification, Hazardous Substance Free, or Indoor Advantage logos on products you purchase.
The second aspect we look for is where products were manufactured. Manufactured is often confused with distributed, and we have seen products lean on this technicality. A product can be distributed in the USA, while made over seas, and this is an important distinction. Look for the Made in USA logo on your products to be sure.
Third, we check for recycled, rapidly renewable, or sustainably sourced content. Look out for the Carbon Reduction Label, CRI Green Label or Green Label Plus, CSA Sustainable Forest, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Green Seal, Green Circle Certification System, or Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).
Fourth, we look for conservation ratings, if applicable. The Energy STAR, Green-e Energy, UL Energy Efficiency Certification (EEC), and WaterSense are excellent logos to look for.
The All Eco Design Center supports a variety of products that proudly display the above mentioned third-party certification labels. These products are not only superior to their traditional alternatives, but are often more affordable. See images below for examples of these logos on products:
Fortunately, these varied and credible third-party organizations have easy to recognize logos, much like the “organic” or “GMO Free” stamps we seek on our foods. The Green Buildings Alliance has even organized many of them into a helpful chart.
So the next time you’re shopping for a home improvement project, remember to look out for these logos to prevent yourself from being mislead by “eco-friendly” or “green” washing.
– Samantha Klein, Coordinator, All Eco Design Center
The All Eco Design Center is a Montgomery County Certified Green Business and is located in Wheaton, MD.