U.S. Green Building Council’s certified wood vote ends Nov. 23, while debate over which certification is best intensifies
You’ve probably heard about it somewhere. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has for some time been considering revisions to rules that determine what wood products qualify as sustainably harvested.
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification to date has been the only certification that qualifies a product for credit under Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), an important “green” building rating system. The proposal, with voting to conclude Nov. 23, has long been anticipated as a document that would open the door for Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certification and others.
“Okay, that’s nice,” you say. “But why do I care?” Because your understanding of these certifications -- and the availability of products that have them -- will affect choices you can make to protect the planet, and possibly, your pocketbook.
Part One: A Focus on the Finish
You might not see it. But when you inspect the most popular cork floors, you’ll feel the difference.
The surfaces on prefinished cork floors range from rough to smooth. The looks range from stone-like to clear and natural.
Only the leaders have obtained “green” certifications that prove their products don’t release harmful levels of chemicals. And there is a little debate over whether some of the harder finishes chosen for durability belong on a softer floor like cork.
While consumer demand for natural products is growing, they are a must-have for people with chemical sensitivities
Kathy McDowell was upset to think she would have to stop playing with her grandchildren on the carpet in her family room. Every time she got close to the floor, the West Lafayette, IN, resident had a reaction that triggered respiratory problems.
When her doctor told her that the carpet had to go, McDowell persisted. She started investigating wool carpet and learned about chemical-free Nature’s Carpet – surprisingly close to home at Cline’s Carpets & Blinds.
“I love the carpet,” says McDowell, who has asthma. “I can get down on the floor with my grandkids. And the wool is easy to keep clean. It seems to breathe. It’s natural. It’s warm when it’s cold, and it’s cool when it’s warm.”
Part Three: Choosing a Salesperson
There are a few hints sales people drop that can mean they know little or nothing about bamboo flooring.
The first is failure to include bamboo in the choices he or she shows you when you say you’re looking for hardwood flooring. But this is not reason in itself to bolt. Different in-store promotions and incentives offered by manufacturers can divert a salesperson’s attention. You can cut through this issue quickly by saying you also want to see bamboo.
Part Two: FormaldehydeAlternatives Can Pose Dangers, Too
It has been observed that in trying to solve a problem, we often create another.
The U.S. Green Building Council was trying to solve a problem in 2007 when it clamped down on Urea Formaldehyde – an ingredient in the adhesive used in many bamboo and engineered hardwood floors.
Until then, most traditional (non-strand) bamboo floors from the bamboo leaders contained Urea Formaldehyde, but in amounts far below the E1 limit (a German standard adopted in China) of 0.1 parts per million.
More stringent limits have followed. The CARB (California Air Resource Board) limit for formaldehyde emissions is .05 ppm. And flooring products with GREENGUARD Environmental Institute Certification® have been tested to ensure that formaldehyde emissions do not exceed .05 ppm.
National effort to recycle carpet diverts more than 300 million pounds a year from landfills, but some complain of roadblocks
John Hughes doesn’t need to watch Green Master’s Natural Interiors® TV presentation this week. He could have written the script. He has been thinking about the health of the planet for a long time. And he is getting a little frustrated.
Hughes, president and owner of O’Briens Carpet One Floor & Home in Colorado Springs, Co., has installed solar panels to reduce the energy needed to run his business. He recycles the wood he tears out when replacing a customer’s floor in addition to all of the rebond carpet pad he replaces. He has tried, repeatedly, to have a successful program for recycling his carpet tear-outs, too.
Welcome to Natural Interiors® where everybody will understand "green"
(Note: This article was written in 2010 and remains on our site as part of our history.)
It’s natural to want simple answers. It’s not natural when simple answers get complicated. But that is what is happening today as we consider “green” building and decorating products.
It seems that confusion often takes over. We mistake a “green” product label that certifies low chemical emissions for a label that means that the product is made from recycled or renewable materials. A salesperson tells us bamboo flooring is more stable than wood, so we think it’s immune to water damage. Specialty “green” retailers proclaim that their knowledge is superior to mainstream retailers as both sides compete for their share of the U.S. “green” building products market, which is projected to reach $80 billion by 2013.
FloorScore® vs. GREENGUARD, FSC® vs. SFI®
Forest Steward, you rock!
But it might be time to change your thinking. The FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification you represent in the July 19, 2010 episode of Natural Interiors® TV is the true, independent third-party certification we have all come to rely on.