What’s the Greenest Product of All?

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In this age of environmental awareness, many people seek out green products for everything from building materials to home furnishings, but how do we know which products are the best green choices?

Well, it all starts with your green priorities. Are you most interested in products that:

  1. are made with recycled content or are recyclable or biodegradable?
  2. are high-quality, long-lasting, and durable so that replacement time comes less frequently?
  3. conserve energy, water, or natural resources (and save you money in the long run)?
  4. don’t compromise good indoor air quality?
  5. are sourced, manufactured, and sold locally to limit transportation effects on the environment?

Once you have determined what is of utmost importance to you and your family, you can begin to look for products that meet those needs. Products that are certified by an independent third-party will be your best bet. Coastwidelabs.com sums it up well: “This requires a company to disclose all ingredients, all toxicity data, all test results to an unbiased third-party independent laboratory. The laboratory conducts independent data reviews and laboratory testing to verify the accuracy of the claims. Then, the independent laboratory verifies in writing that the product meets its claims.”

Some reliable third-party certifiers include:

  • Energy Star for energy efficient appliances, computers, entertainment equipement, lighting, and more.
  • Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) for wood and paper products that come from sustainably managed forests.
  • Cradle-to-Cradle for a wide array of building and consumer products that use environmentally safe and healthy materials, and design for material reutilization, such as recycling or composting; also make use of renewable energy and energy efficiency, water efficiency, and maximum water quality associated with production; as well as institutes strategies for social responsibility.
  • Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) for office furniture systems, building materials, carpet and rug, hard surface flooring, paints, finishes, wood products, and cleaning products, and more.
  • GreenSeal for paper products, paints, windows & doors, cleaning products & services, and food service packaging.
  • Fair Trade Certified for chocolate, coffee & tea, fruit, flowers, and more, which ensures that farmers and farm workers in developing nations receive a fair price for their product; have direct trade relations with buyers and access to credit; and encourage sustainable farming methods, without the use of a dozen of the most harmful pesticides, and forced child labor.
  • USDA Certified Organic for crops in which most synthetic (and petroleum-derived) pesticides and fertilizers, and all antibiotics, genetic engineering, irradiation and sewage sludge, are prohibited for use in. In addition, organic animals must eat 100% organic feed that does not contain any of the animal byproducts or growth hormones.

Tag(s): Events, Food, Going Green, Green Building, Green Cleaning, The Great Green Outdoors

Comments

One Response to “What’s the Greenest Product of All?”

  1. Lloyd Alter on October 26th, 2008 11:47 am

    I used this post to teach my class in Sustainable Design at Ryerson University in Toronto because I think there is an important point. I think there is a real danger when people rely on 3rd party standards but don’t really know what they mean. The two examples that I think stand out are energy star and SCS. I toss in my lecture notes:

    1: Energy Star for energy efficient appliances, computers, entertainment equipement, lighting, and more.

    Energy Star requires you to prove that you are 20% more efficient than the average product. If you are a computer, your case can be made with poisonous fire retardants and your components can be full of lead, cadmium and a host of dangerous chemicals, but if you are efficient, you get energy star. A much better standard, EPEAT, looks at everything.

    A far worse example is an Energy Star rated home. It could be built out of formaldehyde impregated particle board, insulated with ureaformaldehyde foam and clad inside and out with vinyl, while heated by an unshielded block of semicritical plutonium, but if it is 20% more efficient then it gets the label. In fact, the best way to get an efficient house is to seal it tightly, but it is not required that an Energy Star house have a heat recovery ventilator to bring in fresh air, so an energy star house could in fact be toxic. Relying on a standard that looks at only one thing is dangerous.

    Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) for office furniture systems, building materials, carpet and rug, hard surface flooring, paints, finishes, wood products, and cleaning products, and more.

    SCS does their job well- if you tell them your claim, they verify it. I suspect that if I told them I was an axe murderer, and it was true, I could get a certificate. My best example of this is LG Eden, a countertop that claims it is green because it is made from 12% pre-consumer waste. They explain that this is from their shavings, their offcuts and their mistakes; they are blending their own production inefficiencies back into their product and calling it green and proudly displaying the SCS certification that says, yes, they plough 12% of their own garbage back into their product. Does this make them green? I don’t think so.

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