This evening’s live webinar from Everblue was entitled ‘Green Labeling’, a summary of green product labels. The goal of this presentation was to not only introduce various certification schemes for “green” products, but also to define what some of the criteria are for determining their “green-ness” as well as identify a few of the organizations responsible for certifying them.
*note: I took this course as a part of an Everblue Training package of 30 hours designed to meet the CMP prescriptive path for LEED AP’s previously without specialty.
Much like most LEED-related material, there is a STRONG United States focus here. ISO and FSC were the only two standards or labels mentioned that we actually see in practice here in Italy.
Erin, who presented the last live webinar – ‘Carbon Accounting’, was the presenter today. She started out by emphasizing the difference in the definitions of first-party and third-party verifications – basically the difference between self-certification and being certified by an independent unbiased organization.
The first chunk of the presentation dealt with Low-Emitting Materials and the subject of VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds). The LEED credits that deal with this are the EQ 4 credits (4.1-4.4 in BD&C and 4.5-4.6 in Schools). These were some of the relevant organizations that were discussed:
In charge of protecting public health from air pollution for an area in Southern California which includes over 16 million people. The limits for VOC emissions that they have determined are applicable to sellers and manufacturers of architectural coatings.
Green Seal is an independent, non-profit organization with the goal of promoting environmentally responsible products and services. They operate under ISO life-cycle assessment standards, and meet standards set by not only ISO, but also the EPA and GEN (Global Eco-labeling Network). Green Seal 36 and 11 are the two that are referenced by LEED credits (aerosols and coatings).
GS-11 is a standard for paints and coatings (not including stains), which includes performance requirements, health and environmental requirements. It also deals with ‘End of Life Management’ as well as some packaging requirements. After seeing the long list of possibly harmful contents in paints and coatings, it is obvious to see how important an eco-label like this one is.
ISO is a standard that was developed in the 1990s by dozens of countries. 14020 is for general principles of environmental labels and declarations, whereas 14024 specifies procedures and principles for third-party certifiers.
Erin went through the principles of 142020 in some detail, which were generally what you would expect – don’t be misleading, attempt to achieve reasonable consensus, develop for international application, make all information readily available for accountability, etc.
Is a flooring certification scheme in which products are tested by SCS (Scientific Certification Systems).
Carpet and Rug Institute
Industry organization which looks specifically at VOC emissions for carpets. An interesting tidbit is that CRI does not actually accept the Green Seal 37 standard, which calls to question some of the methodologies used by various organizations.
Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association is another organization that looks specifically at VOC emissions. They use an independent testing organization (SCS) to maintain third-party status. BIFMA’s furniture certification investigates multiple attributes throughout the entire life cycle of furniture.
This is the most recognizable energy label in the United States right now. It can apply to buildings, appliances, or even organizations. It is a single-attribute scheme focusing solely on energy consumption.
The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool looks at multiple attributes for certain electronics, such as computers. There are three levels of achievement and, even though you may not see this label thrown around so much, all government computers are required to have this certification.
The Forest Stewardship Council has one of the more internationally recognized certification schemes for wood products. They are famous for the ‘Chain of Custody’ system of certifying wood, which follows the life of wood from tree to sale – including paper products.
Sustainable Food Certifications:
- USDA Organic - Very common organic label in the US. There are three different levels – 100% organic, at least 95% organic, or at least 70% organic. The lowest level can only use the phrase “made with organic ingredients”, whereas the top level can claim “organic” and use the seal.
- Food Alliance Certified - US based certification that addresses health and working conditions of the animals and handlers for animal food products.
- Rainforest Alliance Certified - This has a focus on protecting food from tropical locations, and basically sounds like it was funded by Chaquita Bananas.
- Protected Harvest Certified - Limited scope of potatoes, grapes, and mushrooms! Chain of custody and sustainable farming practices are valued with this certification.
- Fairtrade Labeling Organization - Also looking at tropical locations, usually, but with more of a focus on the people who work the land and their wellbeing.
- Marine Stewardship Council’s Blue Eco-Label - Specifically focused on seafood.
Green Cleaning Product Certifications:
This section is very important for O&M LEED certifications especially. Not only the cleaning products, but also the cleaning equipment is considered for credits related to this. There are some of the standards or labels that are referenced:
- Green Seal 37
- Environmental Choice
- California Code of Regulations
- CRI “Seal of Approval”
At the end of the presentation Erin mentioned the EcoLabel Index, which I found quite interesting. From their website you can download the Global EcoLabel Monitor for 2010 which basically reports on the transparency of various ecolabels. It was written in conjunction with WRI (World Resources Institute).