Right now third-party certifications are the most reliable way to verify green claims when doing your product research. But understanding them all and knowing which are the most reliable adds another layer to the product selection matrix. Here are a few guidelines and resources to help you make smarter selections.
PRODUCT LABELS OR CERTIFICATIONS REFERENCED BY THE NAHB AND LEED
Here are some of the most widely used labeling and certification programs referenced by LEED and the NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines.
Efficiency Standards Energy Star, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency www.energystar.gov/products. Besides being referenced for its certification of homes in general, both NAHB and LEED reference Energy Star for a variety of other products, including appliances, roofs, and equipment.
Solar Rating and Certification Corp. www.solar-rating.org
WaterSense, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency www.epa.gov/watersense
Material Content Recycled Content, Scientific Certification Systems www.scscertified.com
USDA Certified Biobased Product, U.S. Department of Agriculture www.biopreferred.gov/Catalog.aspx
Indoor Air Quality Greenguard, Greenguard Environmental Institute www.greenguard.org
Green Seal, Green Seal Organization www.greenseal.org
Indoor Advantage Gold, Scientific Certification Systems http://www.scscertified.com/gbc/indooradvgold.php
FloorScore, Scientific Certification Systems www.scscertified.com/gbc/floorscore.php
Multiple-Attribute Certifications General
Cradle to Cradle (C2C), McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry www.c2ccertified.com
SMaRT Consensus Sustainable Product Standards, Institute for Market Transformation to Sustainability http://mts.sustainableproducts.com/SMaRT_product_standard.html
Carpet California Gold, California Department of General Services www.green.ca.gov/EPP/standards.htm
Green Label or Green Label Plus, Carpet and Rug Institute http://www.carpet-rug.org/commercial-customers/green-building-and-the-environment/green-label-plus/index.cfm
Responsibly Managed Wood and Wood Products Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Forest Stewardship Council www.fsc.org
Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), Sustainable Forestry Initiative www.sfiprogram.com (NAHB references FSC, SFI, and three other specific wood certifications.
In addition to labels and certifications, here are a few third-party resources that provide general guidelines for green product selection.
BEES: A life cycle assessment–based side-by-side product comparison tool created by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. www.bfrl.nist.gov/oae/software/bees.
BuildingGreen and the GreenSpec Directory: An independent media source that thoroughly investigates product claims. (Subscription required for detailed information.) www.buildinggreen.com.
Green2Green: Though still in the information-gathering phase, Green2Green’s goal is to provide side-by-side comparisons of green building products based on basic characteristics, installation requirements and experiences, environmental attributes, and performance. www.green2green.org.
Green Building Alliance: An affiliate of the USGBC, GBA works directly with green building product manufacturers to help them improve their understanding of the green building marketplace. GBA’s downloadable matrix compares certifications in terms of cost to manufacturers; number of products certified; first-, second-, and third-party designations; etc. Version 2 will be out this summer. www.gbapgh.org.
Rate It Green: Online community sharing information about green building products; includes a directory of products and services, as well as a rating system driven by users. Its Green Building 101 Resource Guide is an encyclopedia of green building and green product resources. (Free to join. Online Resource Guide access is $19.95.) www.rateitgreen.com.
More product selection help is on the way. Here’s what you can expect in the near future.
Environmental Product Declaration: A popular method of disclosing detailed environmental information about products in Europe. The Green Standard has created the first system for the U.S., which it has dubbed the “Gaia Product Profile.” www.thegreenstandard.org.
Life Cycle Assessment: LCA is a holistic assessment of the economic and environmental impacts of a product or process over its entire life cycle (raw-materials extraction, transportation, manufacturing, installation, use, and end of life). LCA is more of a category of information than an exact resource. However, the NAHB and Green Globes already reference information obtained through an LCA; LEED is adding this component this year. Look for more products to start referencing or providing LCAs to back up the environmental information about their products. www.lcacenter.org/LCA/begin.html.
Pharos: The Pharos lens attempts to translate complex product information into a visual guide consumers can use to assess whether or not building products are truly sustainable, based on 16 criteria. www.pharoslens.net; www.pharosproject.net/wiki.