Green Interiors

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.

Second-party certifications 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, third parties.

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 its products.

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 (www.energystar.gov).

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 (www.sfiprogram.org).

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 sustainably (http://www.tft-forests.org/).

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).


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