Remember a time when “green” was simply a color in a crayon box? Ever since the push towards more environmentally conscious ways of living swept the nation, the word “green” has taken on a whole new meaning.
Many companies have hopped on the boat to ride the green wave, and consumers are now forced to wade through the “greenwashing”. “Greenwashing” is defined as “the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company, or the environmental benefits of a product or service.”1 Because there is not one main organization to police green claims and prove their validity, consumers need to understand how to determine for themselves if products are truly “green”.
Here are a few tips to help in the process:
- Look for Products with Certifications
Today there are organizations for all industry types that provide certifications for products that meet certain criteria. In the building and remodeling industry, some of these groups include the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Green Building Standard, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Homes, ENERGY STAR for Homes, and more.
- Check for Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs)
An LCA is a tool that provides a comprehensive view of the environmental aspects of a product and an accurate picture of the environmental costs and benefits of a product selection. Inputs taken into consideration are typically emissions to the air, water and land, the consumption of energy and other material resources, etc. LCAs can be submitted to?3rd parties?such as the Building for Economic and Environmental Sustainability (BEES) software for validation of their results.
- Does?the Product?Save Carbon and/or Energy?
Selecting products that are proven to save more energy and/or carbon than their competitors is a good way to select more environmentally-friendly options. The more energy a product saves during its use, the faster it repays the energy that was required to produce it.
- Consider the Upkeep
If you know in advance that a product is going to require continual maintenance during it’s life cycle, it may not be as “green” as other alternatives. For instance, if a siding product needs to be repainted every few years, there will be other materials involved in the process.??Exterior primers, paints, stains and caulks emit VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and other compounds that are harmful to the environment and can deplete the ozone layer. Whenever possible, choosing maintenance-free materials will help reduce the environmental impact.
- Research the Company Behind the Product
Many companies that claim their products are green do not necessarily implement environmentally responsible manufacturing practices themselves. Companies that strive to improve their efficiencies and reduce their impact on the environment may be more committed to delivering products that are actually considered “green”. This type of commitment not only makes their products more environmentally friendly, but helps ensure the sustainability of their company as well.
With no established standard that reaches across all product categories, there are many factors that can be taken into consideration when determining which products are truly green. Hopefully these tips can?provide additional insight into ways?of selecting products that are better for the environment overall.