The State of “Green,” 2013

The State of “Green,” 2013

Demand will mean more product selection, but can your retailer tell you what standards a product meets?

Even if you are not consciously seeking people- or planet- friendly products, it’s more likely in 2013 that the product you buy will have some environmental advantage — particularly if it’s a building or interior finishing product.

The U.S. green building market has grown from $10 billion in 2005 to an estimated $85 billion in 2012, with expectations that it will exceed $200 billion by 2016, according to a recently published analysis by Environmental Building News.

The top motivators behind this movement? Health-related factors including indoor-air quality, in addition to energy use reduction, according to U.S. and global surveys. Not building a new home? These findings still affect you.

In this New Year, demand for “green” products is finally becoming strong enough to increase the supply.  The days when you could only find a few “green” flooring, tile, paint or non-toxic furniture products through a specialty retailer are over.

Yes, discerning between “green” claims that a product is better for people or better for the planet can still be a challenge.  But a quick review of indoor-air quality and environmental certifications is now the road most taken by customers who want answers to these questions.

2013 Shopping Tip

Simply ask your retail salesperson what standards or certifications the product you are considering has been proven to meet. Be aware the not all manufacturers have invested in testing their products, and even specialty “green” retailers carry cork flooring and other products that have not met certification criteria. If your retailer doesn’t know and doesn’t want to call the manufacturer to find out, he or she likely does not have much experience with the product.

Many traditional flooring retailers have carried everything from cork to linoleum to wool carpet for the last decade. The earliest “green” interior products were in the flooring, paint and bedding categories.  These retailers have always offered the advantage of flooring knowledge and installation expertise. They should be able to readily tell you what third-party certifications their products have.

But careful to ask for certifications for private label products – those renamed by a retailer or manufacturer to give an appearance of exclusivity to their product. The retailer should be able to provide certification information for these products as well.

A complete glossary of standards and certifications for flooring can be found here. A comparison of standards met by the leading low- and zero-VOC paint products can be found here.

It remains more difficult to track down indoor-air quality information for many furniture and bedding products. So if verification of natural or low-emitting materials is not readily available, check with the manufacturer.©

–Nancy Kibbee is editor at naturalinteriors.com.

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