What is the difference between Green Labels and Green Certifications? We have heard the buzz words but do we really know what they mean? Who is behind setting the standards anyway? How can consumers or even business owners know what they are really getting?
Green Labels are based on a single performance attribute of a product like its energy use or recycled content. Green Certification however, is a more complex assessment that relies on several factors and is science-based criteria for determining whether or not a product qualifies for that certification honor. So who is behind these labels and certifications? First we may need to understand there are three levels of “parties” and depending on the product one or all three parties may participate.
There are three levels (First party, Second party and Third party). First party claims are actually made by someone or group directly associated with the product. It is usually the manufacturer or designer; those directly involved with putting the product into the market place. Second party claims tend to be professional trade associations or investors that have interest in the product and its ability to do well on the market. The most desired group is the Third Party. The Third Party is where the organization conducting the study does not have direct connection to the product, its manufacturer or investors. It is generally a non-bias organization that for a fee is hired to investigate the product claim and who thoroughly documents the results of their findings. Groups such as Green Seal and Green Guard are the most common.
With the growth of Green throughout the world and the importance of leaving to future generations a more cared for habitable planet, we are all realizing the need for keeping companies accountable to providing products and services that are within Green Guidelines – whatever they are to that particular industry. Today we have four main categories of labeling and certifications with several more coming to market every day. Here are the most common recognizable names out there today:
- Efficiency Standards – (Energy Star, and Water Sense)
- Material Content
- Indoor Air Quality – (Green Guard, GreenSeal,Indoor Advantage Gold and FloorScore)
- Multiple-Attribute Certifications – (Cradle to Cradle, Smart, Forest Stewardship, Green Label)
So what is the term the Green Wash Factor mean? You may hear this term when someone or another company believes that a product claiming to be environmental is in fact untrue. One area in particular is new construction housing. To often a builder or designer did not do thorough research on the products and collectively thought they were producing a home that was considered sustainable or green. Yet, there is no thorough documentation or certification to backup their claims. Some in the home building industry believed that they could promote green when in fact they may only have one or two items in the home that are green but the whole home did not go through a qualifying process to be acknowledged as Green Certified.
Until recently this Green Wash Factor was common and often done unintentionally. Now professional organizations have put together standards and outlines on how to document so these claims can be verified. One such group is Green Building Alliance. Their job is to navigate the complex product lists and each manufacturer’s claims. Their focus is to help the manufacturers understand and improve their ability to be in the green marketplace. Energy Star and Water Sense have a similar process.
If you are looking for more confirmation or data to confirm your decision about a particular product you can also check with larger standard creation organizations such as ANSI (American National Standard Institute) or ISO International organization for standards. Both require high levels of quality, consistency, public comment and review.
Here are a few key questions for you to ask yourself to better gauge the possibility of a product meeting the green qualifications.
Question # 1 – Is this claim obviously false? For example, neither LEED nor NAHB certify ANY product. If you see “LEED certified” in their sentence it is not true.
Question #2 – Is the claim unrelated or irrelevant? For example, “This product stands out from the competition”. This statement is simply too vague.
Question #3 – Is the claim too generic to make sense? Example – “Product uses latest eco-friendly technology”. By being so generic you would need to do more research.
Question #4 – Does the claim only address basic feature of the product yet others you’d think are more pertinent are ignored?
Question #5 – Can you verify any part of the claim online or with information on the product itself? On-line researching is a great tool to review a product more closely and to see if it actually meets any Green Labeling or Certifications.
As Sustainable and Green continue to grow globally, you’ll find more resources that can confirm whether or not a product meets these criteria. Message Boards, Websites, or Blogs: ie http://truehousing.blogspot.com offer general public and end-user opinions that also help you determine if this product is a good fit for your project or meets your family’s values.