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Getting certified as green

July 1st, 2009 / By: / Resources

My client wants to know if my product is certified to be green. How do I go about doing that?

With the rising concerns regarding sustainability and green design, a great deal of emphasis is being placed on how ‘green’ a product is. Interest in the topic isn’t exactly new, but public awareness and demands for green products has risen rapidly.

The good news is that you have several options available to you for showing that your product is good for the environment. The bad news is that there are so many options that it can lead to confusion. Before you look into certification, you need to decide what it is that you want certified. For example, do you want to certify that the materials that your product is made from are environmentally friendly, or that using your product, such as an awning, leads to energy conservation?

In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the entity that regulates what kind of environmental statements can be made in marketing your product. In general, you must be prepared to substantiate any environmental claims you make for your product and be specific as to what you’re claiming. An example of the latter is whether the claims you’re making for the product refer to the packaging it’s sold in or the components it is made out of. There are further specifications for what is considered recyclable, compostable, etc. Keep in mind that if you use a third-party certification, the FTC may still investigate the environmental statements made.

If your product is an awning, you should be aware that IFAI’s Professional Awning Manufacturers Association (PAMA) commissioned a study that assesses how awnings provide energy savings. For more information, contact PAMA at +1 651 222 2508, fax +1 651 631 9334, www.awninginfo.com.

Your fabric supplier may well have already sought third-party certification for their materials, so your search for a certification should begin with them. If you decide to pursue a third-party certification on your own, here are some of the options available to you:

  • McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) is a consultant firm that specializes in assisting companies to assess their products for what they call a ‘cradle to cradle’ product lifecycle. MBDC evaluates materials based on their chemical composition and also on their ability to be recycled or composted. MBDC certifications range from “silver” to “platinum,” depending on how the material performs in criteria such as human and environmental health impacts.
  • Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) provides independent certification of environmental, sustainability, food quality and food purity claims. With regards to life cycle, products can be certified to a Declaration of Reduced Impact or determined to be an Environmentally Preferable Product (EPP).
  • The Greenguard Environmental Institute has a third-party certification program that certifies products with regard to air quality and chemical emissions. They also have best practice guidelines for building products that prevent the growth of mold during design, construction and ongoing operations.
  • The International Association for Research and Testing in the Field of Textile Ecology is a group of organizations responsible for the Oeko-Tex System of product assessment and certification. Oeko-Tex 100 was developed specifically for the textile industry, but is not directly related to sustainability per se. It is applicable, however, in that it certifies that the textile product is not made of chemicals that are ecologically harmful to humans.
  • Similarly, TÜV Rheinland Group (TÜV) is a family of organizations, originating in Germany, that provides independent certification that products are safe for human use and offer consistent quality.
  • The U.S. Green Building Council‘s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a certification system that measures how well a building performs with regard to several environmentally related areas such as energy savings and water efficiency.
  • The bluesign certification looks at the complete production chain and certifies that products only contain components and pass through processes that are harmless to people and the environment.
  • Federal Trade Commission, Washington, D.C.

Juli Case is IFAI’s information and technical services manager.

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