Sorting Out Green Certifications
by Pamela Portwood
FSC, SFI, SCS, TFT: Sometimes
deciphering and remembering green product certifications is like swimming
in alphabet soup. Yet using certification systems - flawed though
some of them are - is still one of the best ways to wade through the
sea of products proclaiming to be "green."
The thing to remember is that
some green certifications are more useful and reliable than others are.
There are first-, second- and
third-party certifications. First-party certifications are provided
by the manufacturers in the form of product specifications and other
materials that are not independently verified.
are more reliable because their standards are set by trade organizations
or outside consulting firms. However, possible conflicts of interest
exist with these certifications. Third-party certifications are the
most reliable because they are based on product testing by independent,
Also, many certifications only
apply to a specific aspect of a product. A Forest Stewardship Council
ecolabel on a sofa only applies to the wood and says nothing about whether
the fabric is organic or whether the cushions are going to off gas hazardous
volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
The other thing to watch for
is that some certifications, such as the ISO 14000 series, apply only
to the manufacturer's management policies and have nothing to do with
With that in mind, here are
seven certifications related to interior design that are frequently
used in the United States today:
Energy Star: A joint
program of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of
Energy, Energy Star certifies the energy efficiency of over 50 product
types, including everything from kitchen appliances to ceiling fans
FSC: As an international
nonprofit organization, the Forest Stewardship Council is considered
the gold standard for eco-friendly wood products. The FSC ecolabel guarantees
that products use wood from a certified, well managed forests (www.fscus.org).
Greenguard: The Greenguard
Environmental Institute is an independent, nonprofit organization that
tests and certifies numerous types of products, including bedding, flooring,
paints and textiles, for low chemical emissions. The Greenguard Children
and Schools program has more stringent standards (www.greenguard.org).
Oeko-Tex Standard 100:
The International Oeko-Tex Association, a group of independent European
and Japanese testing organizations, certify textiles (including bedding
and window coverings) and clothing as meeting allowable levels of dozens
of substances known to be health risks to humans (www.oeko-tex.com).
SCS: Scientific Certification
Systems is a leading third-party organization that provides testing
and certification for safety, quality, environmental protection and
social responsibility for numerous product areas, including office furniture
systems, building materials, flooring, paints, finishes, wood products
and cleaning products (www.scscertified.com).
SFI: The Sustainable
Forestry Initiative began as a second-party certification system run
by a trade organization and has become a third-party certification run
by a nonprofit organization to evaluate wood that comes from sustainably
managed forests as well as wood that comes from reclaimed wood fiber
TFT: The Forest
Trust is a British not-for-profit company that works with the FSC to
certify wood that comes from tropical forests that are being managed
This is only a sampling of
dozens of certifications now being used in the United States. If you
run across a certification not on this list, the Ecolabel Index (ecolabelindex.com) has a global guide with information
about 301 ecolabels. Also, if you are looking for a product type that
is not covered by any of the above certifications, check Ecolabelling
because chances are good that another organization is testing and certifying
the green products that you want.
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Article is reprinted courtesy of The New Southwest (formerly Tucson Green Times).