Posts Tagged ‘Green Label Plus’

My Squishy New Carpet

May 7, 2009

We had been meaning to replace the carpets in my house for several years. Aged is a polite way of phrasing the condition it was in. From a sustainability perspective, the best thing to do would have been nothing—i.e., do not replace it. However, this conflicted with a liveability perspective, which demanded that the carpets be replaced.

However, the sustainability perspective refused to quit. It demanded that I research the question: is it possible to be sustainable when buying something as heavy as a new carpet? The answer, somewhat to my surprise, is actually yes. It turns out that the carpet and rug industry has been developing some sustainability standards to apply to carpeting, at least for the commercial market. They are also tied into ANSI (American National Standards Institute), and the State of California, which has a Gold Sustainable Carpet Standard. These standards include various aspects of sustainability like content, manufacturing process, reclamation potential, etc. http://www.carpet-rug.org/carpet-and-rug-industry/sustainability/sustainable-carpet/index.cfm. The carpet folks have also rolled out a “Green Label” program that has been incorporated into the well-known LEED green building standards.

But I just wanted to buy a sustainable carpet for my house, not a whole apartment building. What was there for me? I found out that the major carpet brands each have at least a “green line” of product. This generally means that the carpet itself is made from recycled content. Also, while I did not buy from either store, I noticed that both Home Depot and Lowe’s both had an “environmentally friendly” carpet. However, the Home Depot offering was derived from corn, so I eliminated that as an option. We ended up buying the carpet from a neighborhood flooring store –in large part to help keep the neighborhood business in business (They had installed our kitchen floor a couple of years ago ( http://www.keswickflooring.com ) Also, their price was competitive to Lowe’s. And, the “green” carpet was also price competitive to other lines.

Think of carpet as having 2 components— the carpet itself and the padding. Most carpets are made of nylon, polyester, or similar petroleum based product. The carpet we bought (Bliss Heatlhy Home by Beaulieu), is made from recycled soda bottles. I really liked the idea of buying a carpet made from recycled product. I liked the feel of the carpet even better. http://www.blissflooring.com/AboutBlissCarpet_AskBliss.aspx The padding is a little thicker, and a little more expensive as a result. But good support padding is always better for the carpet installed on top of it. Even better, our padding meets the Green Label standard, and has a renewable seed oil base versus the petroleum base of the other paddings. http://www.lpurethane.com/view-fresh-dimension.asp?prod=65

After buying my (fairly) sustainable carpet, I still had the problem of getting rid of the old stuff. I was hoping to be able to take it somewhere to recycle it. But this proved unfeasible. However, I discovered the beauty of FreeCycle (www.freecycle.org). The idea is specifically to avoid throwing things into a landfill. So I posted my old carpet on a couple of freecycle sites. I successfully gave away one of my old carpets. This is better than none. So my attempts to buy sustainable carpet were fairly successful. I think if I had tried this in 2007 vs. 2009, I would have had a lot less success.

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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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