Natural and Not: “Being Green”

Natural and Not: “Being Green”

Are you relying on retailers who are “being green,” or screaming green?

Each time a regional publication distributes its annual “Green Issue,” loaded with “green” business advertising, I am naturally reminded that some retailers still don’t get it. Particularly when it comes to environmental flooring and interior products.

Their advertising messages scream that they are “green” because of such things as selling recyclable nylon carpet, other products from manufacturers who meet their own “environmental stewardship standards,” or they sell cork, bamboo and linoleum.

Much like 10 years ago when the “green” interior product market started getting attention, these businesses still view “green” as a specialty market that is of interest to a small percentage of customers and, therefore, requires occasional advertising but little in-depth knowledge or understanding. This theory ignores market research that shows more consumers are seeking healthful products, in addition to an increase in the U.S. green building market from $10 billion in 2005 to an estimated $85 billion in 2012, with expectations that it will exceed $200 billion by 2016.

Marmoleum flooring

More importantly, it ignores the fact that “green” standards — including those for healthful indoor-air quality – now are used to differentiate all traditional products, like nylon carpet, in addition to competing brands of cork, bamboo, linoleum and other products that often are called “green,” even when they don’t meet today’s “green” standards.

That’s right, in 2013, there are still plenty for cork, bamboo and other green flooring manufacturers who have not put their products through third-party indoor-air quality and other testing.  And many “green” retailers push these products, apparently unaware that human health is the top reason consumers seek “green” products and increasingly looking for third-party health and environmental certifications on the products they buy.

Third-party does not include a manufacturer’s statement that its product meets environmental standards set by the manufacturer. For a retailer in this day and age to put such a statement in an ad is just not natural.  Nor is saying, “I don’t know,” or, “They are all the same,” when a customer wants to know what certifications a product has.

This is why more retailers nationally are beginning to pay attention to the need for product scorecards, and why we already have them at Natural Interiors. When you question your retailer, the conversation should go something like this:

“Has this nylon carpet been tested to see what levels of chemicals it emits?”

Inhaus Laminate from Buddy’s Flooring America

“Yes,” your salesperson should reply. “See it’s noted right here on the back of the sample. It has CRI Green Label Plus certification, and you can see what that standard means, here in our glossary.”

“Okay,” you say. “But what tests has the cork plank I want to put in the family room passed? There’s nothing on the sample.”

“Let’s check,” the natural salesperson says. “It’s right here. That sample is from Wicanders cork, and it has GREENGUARD Indoor-Air Quality Certification. And here, our glossary, tells you what that means.”

“Okay that’s great,” you say, but you are still thinking about saving money by using luxury vinyl tile, which you can see has FloorScore Indoor Air Quality Certification. You are hesitating because you have read that many vinyl floors contain a plasticizer that has been shown to disrupt the human endocrine system.

“Can you tell me if this vinyl contains phthalates?,” you ask,  expecting that you have finally stumped your salesperson.

The natural salesperson will be truthful: “Only a few manufacturers have started eliminating that. It’s not in our printed scorecards yet. But the online version has been updated.  Let me go get the answer for you.” ©

— Nancy Kibbee is editor at


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