Choosing Green Products
Become skeptical about product marketing
As well-bred American consumers we are conditioned by talented marketers to salivate when we see words like "green", "sustainable", or "biodegradable". Like kids in the cereal aisle, we are easily lead to purchase based on claims and packaging. There is a whole science on using words and color, design and style to evoke the desired response in the target--that is, us--and that response is "buy!"
Before cutting loose with your hard-earned cash, consider "green washing" to get a little closer to the truth. Stand back as you examine a prospective purchase and ask yourself, "how good is the information?" Is the source objective or is it marketing hype? How much of the content is recycled? Read the MSDS sheet to find out how many VOCs a paint has. Do a little research;
there's plenty of data on the Web.
Take a few minutes to slow down and reevaluate your purchase. Is is something you need or can you do without it? There's a great old New England saying: "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." More often than not, sleeping on a purchase, especially a large one, can not only save money and reduce personal consumption, but prevent "buyer's remorse" too.
To analyze green materials, evaluate the following factors:
- Is it manufactured locally or regionally?
- What percentage is recycled content? How easily can you recycle it when you're finished with it?
- Is it rapidly renewable?
- Does it produce low emissions or contain non-toxic materials?
- If wood, is it harvested from certified, sustainably managed forests?
- Does it adhere to identified reference standards?
- Is it durable and low maintenance?
- Is the manufacturing process low impact on the environment?
- Does the manufacturer have responsible environmental policies in place?
Materials may be certified by the following organizations:
- ISO 14001 — Certification to ISO standards is an internationally recognized commitment to environmentally responsible practices.
- ISO 14040 — The emerging practice of Life Cycle Assessment is working to combine assessing the known and potential impacts of materials on the environment from the time material is harvested or developed through the manufacturing process, installation, and finally, eventual reuse or disposal.
- SCS — Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) started as the first third-party certifier testing pesticide residues in fresh produce. It now certifies managed forests and marine habitats as well as single attribute claims for environmentally preferable products and LCA services. Monitors vendor compliance.
- GREENGUARD — Certifies furniture, maintenance products, construction materials for interior products and building materials.
- Green Seal — Identifies and promotes products that reduce toxic pollution and waste and conserves resources. Makes recommendations across a broad range of products including paints and paper products.
- EPP — Federally recognized list of environmentally preferable products produced by the Environmental Protection Agency.
There are so many choices, that you just need to weigh them against your needs and project limitations. Often modest, informed choices reduce waste and conserve valuable resources. Sometimes the "best" solution won't work, so you take the second best. Being aware of what your options are is often the first important step in making greener choices.
Green Remodeling: Changing the World One Room at a Time
Green Building Products: The Greenspec Guide to Residential Building Materials
If you have home improvement projects on your plate, UpdateRenovate
can help. Green building awareness varies among contractors, so don't hesitate to ask about their experience in selecting sustainable materials.