These days, you can't swing a hammer without hitting a product marketing itself as "green." But while the sustainable building trend is one that's often as good for the bottom line as it is for environment, all this bandwagon-jumping can lead to greenwashing, leaving many pros and consumers confused—and wary.

Building Products' mission with its first annual Green Product Awards is to sort through the many products claiming to be eco-friendly—with the expert assistance of four green-minded judges—and showcase a crop of products introduced within the last year that offer substantial—and often substantiated—environmental benefits. These attributes include, among others: saving energy, water, or other resources; contributing to improved indoor air quality; reducing a home's carbon footprint; or contributing to a more durable, high-performance home.

Building Products asked manufacturers to submit products introduced between January 2007 and January 2008. Unable to independently test each product, our judges scrutinized written statements, press materials, brochures, pricing information, testimonials, and photography submitted by the manufacturers.

In addition to green attributes, judges were asked to assess each product's level of innovation and its "value" to pros. In other words, does it solve a common problem, make installation easier, boost profits, or make a pro say "Wow!"? The winning products scored high in all three areas: green, innovation, and value.

All claims about the winning products come from their makers; the editors and judges could not independently verify the statements. What's more, the winners represent only a small portion of outstanding green products that were introduced during the past year. The judges made their selections based on items entered in the competition, not from all products that debuted last year.

If you're in search of green products to satisfy the wishes of eco-minded homeowners, look no further.

Ron Flax, AIA Assoc., LEED AP | Project Manager, Rodwin Architecture | Boulder, Colo.

Tom Kelly | President, Neil Kelly
Design/Build Remodeling | Portland, Ore.

Martha Rose | Owner, Martha Rose Construction | Seattle

GaryZajicek | Vice President of
Construction, Veridian Homes | Madison, Wis.

Kohler. The Persuade toilet merges sleek design with water-conserving dual-flush technology, which allows the user to choose between 1.6 gpf or .8 gpf. "It is one of the most innovative products that helps conserve water," one judge said. A two-button actuator integrated into the toilet's lid operates the flush. According to the company, the toilet could save a household of four between 2,000 and 5,000 gallons of water per year. The toilet meets the EPA's WaterSense performance guidelines. Cost: $335 and up. 800-456-4537.

Bosch. The Evolution SHE68 and Integra SHX68 dishwashers are not only quiet, but extremely energy-efficient, too. Both appliances exceed the minimum federal energy standard by 147 percent with a yearly usage of 190 kWh, the company says. The dishwashers include an EcoAction program that reduces energy consumption up to 25 percent, an EcoSense wash management system that determines the soil level in the water to customize the wash cycle, and a half-load option and a 30-minute cycle for smaller loads. Premium models have a 42-dB sound level. Cost: Evolution, $599-$1,549; Integra, $849-$1,749. 800-944-2904.

GE. The Profile SmartDispense Frontload Laundry Pair combines energy- and water-conserving features with convenience and style. The Energy Star-qualified 4.2-cubic-foot front-load washer uses as little as 10 gallons of water for a small load and can save more than 5,800 gallons of water per year compared to typical top-loaders, the company says. The washer stores detergent and fabric softener, then adds the right amount depending on load size and other factors. It also adjusts water use by sensing the load. The 1,300-rpm spin speed removes more water to help clothes dry quicker, and the washer and dryer "talk" to each other to communicate load settings. The machines are available in champagne, vermillion red, or pure white. Cost: washer, $1,299; dryer, $1,099. 800-626-2005.

FiberTech Polymers. The company blends post-consumer wood-fiber waste and recycled plastic to create its TimberWolf Pro-Series fencing, certified by Scientific Certification Systems to have a minimum of 90 percent post-consumer recycled content. "This product earns big by using such a high content of recycled material," a judge said. Pickets are 6 feet tall and 6 inches wide, and posts are 4 inches by 4 inches; they come in four colors: coastal cedar, sequoia red, dark walnut, and driftwood. The colors will not fade to gray, the company says. Cost: $30 per linear foot of installed fencing (materials only). 888-262-2070.

BioBased Insulation. BioBased 1701 closed-cell spray-foam insulation is soy-based, rather than petroleum-based, and is 100 percent water-blown instead of relying on HCFC blowing agents. As a result, it has earned GreenGuard certification. "This product solves the few remaining problems with spray-in-place foam insulations," a judge said. "Having third-party certification is wonderful." BioBased 1701 has an R-value of 19 at 3-1/2 inches. Cost: approximately $5.65 per square foot, installed. 800-803-5189.

Whirlpool. The Duet Steam Washer and Dryer use steam to tackle wrinkles, odor, and stains without pre-treatment. The washer penetrates stained clothes with water and detergent and then uses steam to deep-clean and extract stains; the steam raises water temperatures, sanitizing fabrics. The Energy Star-rated washer saves up to 73 percent of water and 77 percent of energy compared to traditional units manufactured before 2004, according to the company. In the dryer, a fine mist of water turns to steam to remove wrinkles and odors. Three colors are available. Cost: washer, $1,499-$1,599; dryer, $1,199-$1,299. 800-253-3977.

ICI Paints. No VOCs but plenty of color choices is the promise of Freshaire Choice paint. Even after it's tinted to any of 66 colors, the paint remains VOC-free; it is GreenGuard Indoor Air Quality-certified. According to the firm, the formulation does not sacrifice quality for environmental performance, undergoing third-party testing for durability and offering superior performance for washing and stain resistance. In addition, the paint container is made from recycled material that can itself be recycled. The line comes in flat, eggshell, and semi-gloss finishes and includes drywall interior primer and ceiling paint. Cost: $35 to $38 per gallon. 866-880-0304.

Soil Retention. A pavement system for driveways, walkways, and parking areas, Drivable Grass consists of tile-like, 2-foot-by-2-foot concrete squares connected into a mat by a grid system. Landscapers can plant grass through lattice-style holes and cracks that allow for root penetration through the mat into the soil, anchoring it firmly into place, the manufacturer says. The mat's porous nature enables moisture to filter into the underlying soil, reducing runoff while allowing water to be absorbed on site. "Aesthetic solutions to runoff issues are hard to find," a judge said. "This is an elegant solution to a common problem." Cost: $2.50 per square foot. 800-346-7995.

Timber Products Co. When specified with no added urea-formaldehyde resin, the GreenT line of hardwood plywood meets or exceeds all federal and state requirements for formaldehyde emissions. Core options are MDF, veneer, and particleboard, all made with recycled wood fibers and produced from wood certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and the Forest Stewardship Council. Also available are four specialty panels. Cost: varies. 800-547-9520.

Carlisle. FSC-certified 100 percent post-consumer reclaimed Antique Wide Plank Floors are reclaimed from barns, mill buildings, sheds, and other general-purpose buildings slated to be demolished. The customer may opt to have floors sealed with a low-VOC finish that exceeds state and green building guidelines; in this custom coat, an additive protects the wood against mold, mildew, and airborne microbes. "Beautiful and green—the new classic combination," a judge commented. Each wood type is available in different colors and with knots, wormholes, and cracks. Cost: varies. 800-595-9663.

Broan-NuTone. "A distinct improvement in the hood fan category," is how one judge described the Energy Star-qualified QDE series of undercabinet range hoods. The range hoods offer a total lifetime energy savings of 564 kWh over comparable standard models, the company says. Two 13-watt compact fluorescent bulbs can last up to 10,000 hours and provide for a uniformly lit surface for cooking. The hoods' 280-cfm blower offers quiet operation of .9 sone at normal speed. Cost: Starts at $549. 800-558-1711.

Bay Tree Technologies USA. PureWood decking undergoes a process that combines heat and moisture to convert naturally occurring sugars into an organic compound that doesn't support the growth of mold and mildew, says the firm. While no chemicals or metals are added, the company says, the wood is naturally resistant to rot and decay. "The wow is the lack of toxins," a judge said. The deck boards, suitable for in-ground contact use, can be cut, drilled, nailed, and sanded like raw wood. They come in two styles and seven lengths. Posts, rails, a baluster, and fascia board also are available. Cost: Unavailable. 888-575-4180.

Franklin Intl. The Titebond GreenChoice line consists of seven solvent-free adhesives and one that is polyurethane-based. They cover a variety of applications, from construction, repair, subflooring, drywall, and cove base to acoustical and radon sealants. The line "makes it easy for the builder to choose low-VOC for all adhesive applications," a judge said. Cost: $1.99 to $3.99 for a 10.3- to 10.5-ounce cartridge; $3.50 to $6.50 for a 29-ounce cartridge. 888-533-9043.


Honorable Mentions

Dow Building Solutions. Styrofoam SIS structural insulated sheathing combines structural shear bracing, insulation, and water-resistive protective barrier properties to achieve significant R-values, the company says. It is rated R-3 at 1/2 inch and R-5.5 at 1 inch, helping to reduce the home's energy consumption and to meet energy efficiency codes and credits, the firm says. 800-232-2436.

MonierLifetile. The Energy Efficient Roofing System increases cross-ventilation as well as the overall performance and integrity of the roof, the company says, resulting in a 50 percent reduction in heat penetration into the conditioned space of the home. The concrete tiles are Class A fire rated and meet ASTM freeze/thaw standards. Materials are sourced locally and include some post-industrial recycled content such as fly ash and slag. 800-571-8453.

NuVo Technologies. The Essentia E6G is the world's first Energy Star-rated whole-home audio system, which it achieves through an efficient standby mode, consuming .82 watts of power when not in use. In addition, the Energy Star-rated system operates at a very cool temperature, which saves energy and boosts product longevity, the company says. 866-796-4904.