Posts Tagged ‘Eco-Options’

The Non-Smell of Fresh Paint

June 10, 2009

With the recent painting of my kitchen and living room, my seemingly never-ending construction saga is over. Even better, the house does not, and did not, smell of new paint. The last time I painted my house, it took more than several days for it to fully air out. The smell lingered in the air as the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) made their way from the walls, through house, and eventually outside to pollute the atmosphere. That was back in 2002. Fast forward to 2009, and I did not want to repeat that experience. Fortunately, there are now a variety of environmentally friendlier, non (or low) VOC paints on the market.

And I was a willing consumer. My first hope was to go to the neighborhood paint store and inquire about environmentally friendly, low/no VOC paint. We went twice, and the answer was the same—no dice. (I prefer to shop at the community stores vs. the big box chains, if I have a choice). After getting the wrong answer at the local paint store, it was off to Home Depot and Lowes to see their low/no VOC offerings. Lowes had a low VOC entrant; Home Depot had a NO VOC contestant. The Home Depot brand, The Freshaire Choice (made by Glidden) immediately became the leading candidate. The good news was no VOCs—the bad news was the relatively limited colors available (only 65). (Glidden actually has a very informative pdf on VOCs here: https://www.glidden.com/general/VOC.jsp)

As for the colors, we did find colors we can use. The skimpy color selection can certainly be a major limitation for a lot of people. We also learned that paint has two major parts –the paint itself and the colorant. The design innovation of The Freshaire Choice is that the colorants are also VOC free, as well as the paint. In fact, the colorants are actually in a package that dissolves into the paint when it is mixed in at the store. As for paint quality, it is actually made by Glidden, which is a good brand. It has also been certified to the Greenguard indoor air quality standard (and that’s a good one).

This sounds too good to be true, and it is. We learned the hard way that while the Freshaire paint and colorant might be VOC free, this does not necessarily apply to the primer. The primer unfortunately had more than enough VOCs to make up for the paint. Even worse, after we do the painting, we found out that there was a Freshaire Choice primer. Live and learn.

From a corporate perspective, Glidden is owned by ICI, which is a major chemical company that was recently bought out by a Dutch company called AKZONobel. AKZONobel calls Freshaire Choice a “premium brand”. (In terms of price at Home Depot, it is priced the same as the Ralph Lauren paint in the neighboring case). Equally impressively, AKZONobel prominently features sustainability on their website. Further, they provide some ways they measure the success (or failure) of their sustainability programs. So I take these claims a little more seriously than most—because what gets measured gets done (http://www.akzonobel.com/sustainability/)

So I achieved my goals with the paint. First, it looks good (now that is on the walls). Second, it did not smell up the whole house. Third, I bought it from a corporation that seems to take sustainability seriously. Not a bad deal for a gallon of paint—or two, or ten.

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To Tell the Truth

January 23, 2009

As I attempt to actually implement sustainability into my purchases, I have come across a huge variety of green claims and counter claims. Paralleling the multiple environmental claims are multiple organizations certifying at least some of these claims. For the consumer, the idea is that someone has checked out the environmental claims and found them to be on the up and up. But understanding who actually certifies what, and which certification is important for a given purchase, is a different question. Since I am in the midst of a construction project, my examples have a relationship to building materials.

I’ve had to decode Greenguard vs Greenseal as well as Green Label and Green Label Plus. These are not to be confused with Scientific Certification Systems–SCS. Each of these looks at things a little differently. And of course there is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plus the State of California. California is very environmentally progressive, and a huge marketplace. Therefore when California talks, manufacturers listen.
First, Greenguard and Greenseal. Greenguard focuses primarily on indoor air quality—most notably for off gassing of VOCs, formaldehyde and other chemicals. (www.greenguard.org). Greenseal has a wider area of focus, offering environmental standards and certifications in about 2 dozen categories (www.greenseal.org). Whether these certification labels are actually relevant to what I am buying might be another question. Even so, both of these are independent, 3rd party providers with ties to ANSI, ASTM, etc. (ANSI and ASTM are widely recognized national standards-setting organizations. Their standards are used in nearly every industry you have ever heard of.)

On the other hand, Green Label and Green Label Plus are programs of the carpet industy’s trade organization, the Carpet and Rug Institute. It is pretty easy to automatically assume that an industry-based organization is greenwashing. However, I noticed that the current LEED (green building) guidelines give credits to carpeting that meets the Green Label Plus standards. So it must be legit. I’ll look for a Green Label Plus carpet when I get new carpeting.

Another twist on the certification world is Scientific Certification Systems. Among other things, they happen to be the ones who certify vendors desiring to be part of Home Depot’s Eco Options program (look for the green signs all over the store). The base questionnaire the Eco Options vendors fill out to be reviewed by SCS is quite interesting reading. (http://www.scscertified.com/csr/Home_Depot/).

These organizations seem to be building awareness and usage in the professional/industrial area. I think it is only a matter of time before the consumer markets start demanding certifications like I’ve discussed above. I have. I do not rely solely upon them, but they are a great help in determining if a given product is environmentally friendly.


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