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Lost Within the Green Tape. Understanding the process for making true sustainable product selections while avoiding the pitfalls of greenwashing and eco-label confusion . Tommy J. Crane LEED AP. Outline for Discussion . Greenwashing Eco-Labels Certification Sources to Help

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lost within the green tape

Lost Within the Green Tape

Understanding the process for making true sustainable product selections while avoiding the pitfalls of greenwashing and eco-label confusion.

Tommy J. Crane LEED AP

outline for discussion
Outline for Discussion
  • Greenwashing
  • Eco-Labels
  • Certification
  • Sources to Help
  • Product Selection
  • What to do when Selecting – Basic Steps
  • Things to Avoid when Selecting
  • Things to Look For when Selecting
what is greenwashing
What is Greenwashing

Green-wash – verb: the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service. (TerraChoice, 2009)

seven sins of greenwashing
Seven* Sins of Greenwashing
  • Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off
  • Sin of No Proof
  • Sin of Vagueness
  • Sin of Irrelevance
  • Sin of Fibbing
  • Sin of Lesser of Two Evils
  • Sin of Worshiping False Labels *
seven sins of greenwashing1
Seven* Sins of Greenwashing
  • Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off
    • Based on a single environmental attribute or an unreasonably narrow set of attributes without attention to other environmental issues.
      • Recycled content of a product only
      • Energy efficiency vs. hazardous material content in electrical equipment.
      • Greenguard – indoor air quality – Voc Content
      • Energy Star – energy efficiency
seven sins of greenwashing2
Seven* Sins of Greenwashing
  • Sin of No Proof
    • Environmental claim that cannot be substantiated by easy accessible supporting information, or by a third-party certification.
      • Energy efficient appliances without supporting documentation.
seven sins of greenwashing3
Seven* Sins of Greenwashing
  • Sin of Vagueness
    • Claim that is poorly defined or so broad that its real meaning is likely to be misunderstood.
      • Chemical-free
      • Non-toxic
      • All natural
seven sins of greenwashing4
Seven* Sins of Greenwashing
  • Sin of Irrelevance
    • A truthful claim that is unimportant and unhelpful. Irrelevant and therefore distracting.
      • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC)- free
seven sins of greenwashing5
Seven* Sins of Greenwashing
  • Sin of Fibbing
    • False environmental claims. Misuse or misrepresentation of certification.
      • ‘Certified’ products with no certification
      • ‘Registered products’ lacking registration


seven sins of greenwashing6
Seven* Sins of Greenwashing
  • Sin of Lesser of Two Evils
    • Claims that may be true within the product category but that risk distracting the consumer from the greater impacts as a whole. Placed on products in which the entire product category is of questionable environmental value.
      • Organic cigarettes
      • Green insecticides and herbicides
seven sins of greenwashing7
Seven* Sins of Greenwashing
  • Sin of Worshiping False Labels*
    • Gives the impression through words or images of third-party endorsement where no such endorsement actually exists.
      • Company’s own in house environmental programs
      • Bold yet vague statements – fights global warming
      • Green jargon – eco-safe, eco-secure, eco-preferred
eco labels
  • International Organization of Standardization (ISO) 14000
    • 14020 - Environmental Labels and Declaration
    • Type I – Voluntary Third Party
    • Type II – Self-Declared
    • Type III – Third Party – environmental product declaration (EPD)
type i label
Type I Label
  • Voluntary criteria-based third party programs
  • Environmentally Based on a particular category
  • Does not require Life-Cycle Assessments (LCAs)

GreenGuard certified – VOC content – indoor air quality

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) – sustainable wood and forest practices

Energy Star – Energy efficient appliances and electronics

type ii label
Type II label
  • Self-declared environmental claims
  • Made by manufacturers, importers, distributors, retailers, etc..
  • Without third-party certification.
  • Encompasses single or multiple impacts
  • Might include a product LCA
type iii label
Type III label
  • Providing quantified environmental data using predetermined parameters.
  • Requires LCA to measure environmental impacts.
  • Environmental Product Declarations (EPD)
  • Requires Third-Party certification
  • Can include performance data of safety, human health etc.
    • Cradle to Cradle – MBDC
    • Green Seal
    • SCS – Scientific Certification Systems
  • First-party
  • Second-party
  • Third-party
  • Fourth-party regulations (governmental regulations)
first party certification
First-Party Certification
  • Self-certification
    • ISO 14021 – Environmental Labels and Declarations – Self-Declared Environmental Claims
    • Type II Label
      • SC Johnson’ Greenlist products
second party certification
Second-Party Certification
  • Trade association or vendor assessment
  • Type I labeling
    • Carpet and Rug Institute – CRI
    • Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association – BIFMA
    • MTS – the Institute for Market Transformation to Sustainability
      • SMART Sustainable Building Products Standards
third party certification
Third-Party Certification
  • Credible testing and labeling agencies
  • No direct connection with material or its manufacturer
  • Transparency on both standards and certification process
    • GREENGUARD Environmental Institute
    • SCS – Scientific Certification Systems
    • Green Seal
    • NSF – National Sanitation Foundation International
    • MBDC –McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry:
third party certification1
Third- Party Certification
  • Accrediting bodies for third-party certifiers
    • SCC – Standards Council of Canada
    • ANSI – American National Standards Institute
    • RvA – RvA - Raad voor Accreditatie (Dutch Accreditation Council - Europe
fourth party regulations
Fourth- Party Regulations
  • Government agencies implementing regulations so that standards are met.
    • EPA – Environmental Protection Agency
    • Dept. of Energy
      • Energy Star – EPA
    • US Code of Federal Regulations
      • Federal Register
    • FTC – Federal Trade Commission
sources to help
Sources to Help
  • Organizations that provide list of companies and products that they view meet sustainability standards
    • Green Zone –
    • HOK Sustainable Materials Database
    • The GreenStandard.org
    • Scientific Certification Systems
product selection
Product Selection
  • Resource Efficiency
  • Indoor Air Quality
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Water Consumption
  • Affordability
resource efficiency
Resource Efficiency
  • Recycled content, product packaging / recyclable
  • Natural, plentiful, or renewable
  • Efficient manufacturing process
  • Salvaged, refurbished or remanufactured
  • Reusable
  • Durable / long lasting
indoor air quality
Indoor Air Quality
  • Minimal Chemical Emissions (VOCs and toxic chemicals)
  • Moisture resistant – mold, mildew, etc
  • Healthfully maintained – methods of cleaning
  • Building systems and equipment – do not release VOCs, etc.
energy efficiency
Energy Efficiency
  • Reduce energy consumption
    • Energy Star certified products
    • Temperature controls -
    • Reduce lighting fixtures by replacing with natural light and providing multiple lighting control options.
water conservation
Water Conservation
  • Reduce water consumption
  • Low-flow fixtures (toilets, etc)
  • Sensor activated fixtures, faucets
  • Consider waterless urinals
  • Controlled irrigation with gray water or no irrigation
  • Life-Cycle Costs
  • Compare to conventional materials and methods
  • Stay within a project-defined percentage of overall budget.
three basic steps
Three Basic Steps
  • Research
    • Certification claims
    • Ask for Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)
  • Evaluate
    • Certification claims
    • Life cycle assessment (LCA)
    • Software to help – Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES)
      • National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Building and Fire Research Laboratory
  • Select
    • Evaluation matrix used to make proper selection
    • Create / share database for future use
what to avoid
What to avoid
  • Solvent based stains, dyes, etc.
  • Polyethylene Foam for stuffing
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in paints, adhesives, stains, sealers, finishes, etc.
  • Wood and wood products from non FSC certified forest
  • Composite material (particleboard, MDF, etc) with VOC adhesives
  • Epoxy finishes
  • Heavy metals (lead, mercury, cadmium, Chromium (chrome)
what to avoid1
What to avoid
  • Virgin petrochemical fibers – nylon, polyester, olefin, acrylic, polypropylene, etc.
  • Chlorine bleach / harsh environmentally dangerous cleaners (if you need rubber gloves to use it )
  • Vinyl – specifically Polyvinylchloride (PVC)
  • Products with lengthy transportation distances, by air, water, or land.
what to look for
What to look for:
  • Water soluble, vegetable/ mineral dyes and stains
  • Non-Volatile Organic Compounds in paints, adhesives, stains, sealers, finishes, etc.
  • Glue – free construction / joinery (dovetail, mortise and tenon, etc)
  • Powder Spray Coat finishes
  • Buckwheat / other seed hull fillings for stuffing
  • Plant based polymers (foam) etc
  • Rapidly renewable resources – cork, bamboo, hemp, flat (linen).
  • Blanket wrap for transportation
what to look for1
What to look for:
  • Organic / unbleached fabrics and fibers: wool, cotton, silk, bamboo, hemp, flat (linen), papers, etc.
  • Fully recycled petrochemical fibers – nylon, polyester, etc
  • Energy Star rated appliances and electronics,
  • Regional materials within 500 mile radius
  • FSC certified wood and wood products
  • Environmentally friendly cleaners
  • Agri-fiber products, (wheatboard, etc with no VOCs
final thoughts questions
Final Thoughts / Questions
  • Research products / claims
  • Share information with others
  • Keep looking the right products are out there

Tommy J. Crane, MFA, IDEC, LEED AP

Assistant Professor - Interior Architecture

School of Human and Consumer Sciences

Grover Center W324 Ohio University

(740) 593-2870 / fax (740) 593-0289