NeoCon Green Pages: Product Certifications
Tried and True or New? What's Real?
Penny Bonda -- Interior Design, 6/9/2008 12:00:00 AM
Product certifications have been around fordecades providing third party audits and verifications.They make the designer's work easier by establishing standards and guidelines that certify compliance with codes and laws and contribute to making the development, manufacturing, and supply of products and services safer and more reliable.
Not all product certifications are as easy to trust. They haven't been around long, have not yet achieved widespread acceptance, and their authenticity may be challenged by others. However, independent, technically expert evaluations by a third party without a financial interest in the product are enormously important.
Certifications commonly divide into distinct groups:
those that measure specific characteristics, such as emissions, and
others that look at multiple attributes across an array of issues
They are also differentiated by their origins: those developed by an open voluntary process such as American National Standards Institute (ANSI), by an independent third-party organization, and proprietary standards developed by an industry group. The legitimacy of the latter, second-party group depends on the credentials of the responsible organization.
Knowing whom to trust in this era of greenwash is a huge challenge; sorting out the science is difficult for those not schooled in technical matters. Even so, these standards are immensely useful as they assist us in making informed, environmentally sound decisions. Briefly reviewed below are some of the product certifications NeoCon attendees can look for and depend on for legitimacy and effectiveness.
Multiple Attribute Standards and Certifications
Developed according to ANSI requirements by the Business Industries Furniture Manufacturers Association, a trade group, to assist its members address emissions, materials use, energy, and other product and manufacturer attributes, these standards will be used by others to offer first-, second-, or thirdparty certification. May earn LEED points. www.bifma.org
CRADLE TO CRADLE (C2C)
McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) developed C2C as a certification program that evaluates and optimizes all chemical and material inputs throughout a product's life cycle. Manufacturers hire MBDC to guide them through the process and although stringent and reliable, C2C is not a thirdparty certification. May earn LEED points. www.mbdc.com
Also known as Environmental Choice, EcoLogo third-party certifies more than 250 products. Managed by TerraChoice Environmental Marketing, EcoLogo is a consensus-based standard that uses a life-cycle approach for labeling. www.ecologo.org
A non-profit, Green Seal provides multiple-attribute, third-party certifications to a variety of products including paints, compact fluorescent lamps, commercial adhesives, occupancy sensors, windows and window films. Using ISO environmental principles and life-cycle evaluations, Green Seal criteria is drafted to address the most significant environmental impacts. May earn LEED points. www.greenseal.org
SCIENTIFIC CERTIFICATION SYSTEMS (SCS)
SCS is a third-party certifier that offers single attribute claims but is also known for its more comprehensive certification programs such as Environmentally Preferable Products and Services (EPP) and Sustainable Choice. Both programs are transitioning to a declaration process based on ANSI environmental life cycle requirements. The organization also administers its Indoor Advantage emissions certification program. May earn LEED points. www.scscertified.com
SMART CONSENSUS SUSTAINABLE PRODUCT STANDARDS
SMaRT developed by the Institute for Market Transformation to Sustainability (MTS) assesses products on a number of criteriathroughout the global supply chain, including material attributes, energy, water reuse, and social equity. A third-party certification, MTS uses auditors to certify products to its standards. May earn LEED points. www.mts.sustainableproducts.com
Single Attribute Standards and Certifications
Introduced in 1992 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE), Energy Star is a voluntary labeling program that evaluates and rates energy use for over 50 different electric products. Major categories include appliances, electronics, lighting, commercial food service, and office equipment products that generally use, at a minimum, 20 to 30 percent less energy than non-rated counterparts. May earn LEED points. www.energystar.gov
The Resilient Floor Covering Institute, an industry trade association, partnered with SCS, a third-party certifier, to provide air–emissions labeling for hard–surface flooring including vinyl, linoleum, laminate flooring, wood flooring, ceramic flooring, rubber flooring, wall base, and associated accessories. The FloorScore seal certifies compliance with the volatile organic compound emissions criteria of the California Section 01350 program. May earn LEED points. www.rfci.com
FOREST STEWARDSHIP COUNCIL (FSC)
The Forest Stewardship Council is an international network that promotes responsible management of the world's forests, brings users together to find solutions to the problems created by bad forestry practices, and rewards good forest management. FSC itself does not issue certifications, but rather accredits certification bodies in order to maintain its independence from those seeking certification. Although there are competing forestry certifiers, such as SFI and AFTS, many view FSC as the gold standard. May earn LEED points. www.fscus.org
GREEN LABEL AND GREEN LABEL PLUS
This second-party labeling program, implemented by the Carpet & Rug Institute (CRI), establishes allowable emission limits of various substances from carpets, carpet pads, and adhesives. CRI, a trade association, is seeking approval as an ANSI certified developer, which will add credibility to its standards. May earn LEED points. www.carpet-rug.org
Founded by Air Quality Sciences, a testing laboratory, Greenguard is an independent, third-party certificate program for more than 165,000 low-emitting products and materials in 25 industries. The more recently introduced Greenguard Children in Schools certification, which meets California's chronic reference exposure levels (CRELs), added additional and more stringent testing thresholds. May earn LEED points. www.greenguard.org
Modeled after the EPA's Energy Star program, WaterSense identifies water-efficient plumbing products. Products that bear the WaterSense label meet all the criteria in the EPA's specifications for water efficiency and performance. Generally speaking, WaterSense labeled products will be about 20 percent more water efficient than their less efficient counterparts. www.epa.gov/watersense