Going Green: From Cleaning to Construction

There are millions of construction, equipment, and cleaning products on the market, and finding the right environmentally friendly choice requires research and diligence. Fortunately, many organizations have green or sustainable certification programs. The following information provides a brief overview of several programs to consider when making purchasing decisions.

GREENGUARD Certification Program

Indoor air quality (IAQ) is an important issue when it comes to healthy learning environments. The GREENGUARD Environmental Institute™ (GEI) is a not-for-profit organization that oversees the GREENGUARD Certification Program: an industry-independent, third-party testing program for low-emitting products and materials.

“We focus on one thing… IAQ,” said Carl Smith, GREENGUARD’s chief executive officer.“We believe this issue must be addressed relative to both construction and daily maintenance. Products that are used for maintenance have a significant impact on IAQ.”

GEI began offering GREENGUARD certification in 2002. Today, 67 manufacturers participate in the program and thousands of products have been certified.“Every product that bears the GREENGUARD certification has been through a rigorous testing program that measures emission levels based on established national and international standards,” said Smith. “Products are tested annually after initial certification, and product components are tested on a quarterly basis.” GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality Certified® products are offered in multiple categories including flooring, general construction, insulation, paint, and office equipment. Approved products are listed on GEI’s Website (www.greenguard.org), and manufacturers of certified products may use the GREENGUARD mark in advertising and on product packaging. The organization’s product guide is available free of charge.


This wood doesn’t think for itself, but Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification by SmartWood means that the wood was grown, cared for, and brought to market with extensive thought and respect for the environment.

“The Rainforest Alliance’s SmartWood program is the world’s leading certifier accredited by the FSC,” said Liza Murphy, senior manager, Forestry Division for the organization. “We believe that the FSC has the best practices regarding forest management, and our SmartWood program verifies that the steps and management used to deliver the wood from forest to market meet the FSC standards.”

FSC’s certification process examines how the wood was grown and harvested; worker conditions, including safety and compensation; and transportation to market. “Interest in and use of FSC-certified products has increased,” said Murphy. “Companies use SmartWood to certify paneling, cabinets, flooring, windows, and banister spindles, among many other products.”

Invoices for FSC-certified products bear a certification number, and this number may also be verified on the FSC Website. Some products may bear the Rainforest Alliance seal along with the FSC logo. Sources for FSC-certified building products and additional information are available in the Rainforest Alliance’s online SmartGuide for construction products or on the organization’s Website at www.rainforest-alliance.org.

Green Label and Green Label Plus

The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) began its Green Label IAQ testing and labeling program in 1992. Today, the organization has two programs to help in the selecting of more sustainable carpets and other products.

“The interest in our two programs continues to grow,” said Carroll Turner, CRI’s manager of technical services. “Products that have either the Green Label or Green Label Plus certification have passed a stringent initial test and are then re-tested on a three-month basis. Compliance must be maintained to bear either CRI certification.”

Turner said the Green Label program involves carpet, flooring adhesives, cushion materials, and vacuum cleaners. The Green Label Plus program is for only for carpet and flooring adhesives, and helps buyers to ensure they are purchasing the lowest-emitting products on the market.

“Green Label Plus was developed in cooperation with several California agencies, and meets or exceeds the state’s indoor quality standards for low-emitting products. The standards are even more stringent than our Green Label certification.”

Manufacturers voluntarily participate in either program, and are identified by an assigned number on the certification label. Look for products that display the CRI Green Label IAQ Testing Product logo. For more information on CRI, its programs and manufacturers offering certified products visit the organization’s Website at www.carpet-rug.org.

Green Seal

Green Seal granted its first product certification in 1992, and today the organization has standards that are applied to more than 40 categories. “We have certified almost 1,000 products,” said Linda Chipperfield, the organization’s director of Marketing and Outreach. “Interest from manufactures and purchasers continues to grow.”

Green Seal-certified products include paints and coatings, cleaners, floor care products, and windows and doors. “We evaluate a product, its components and its lifecycle — raw materials, manufacturing, distribution, use, and ultimately, its disposal and recycling,” Chipperfield said. “Certified products bear the Green Seal mark.”

Once products are certified, the manufacturer must submit documentation on a yearly basis to verify that processes and materials have not changed since the certification was granted. Products are reviewed as necessary. For more information visit www.greenseal.org.


ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. “Our goal is to help users make wise energy management decisions,” said Ann Bailey, director of ENERGY STAR’s product labeling program. “The products bearing the ENERGY STAR designation meet strict energy efficiency guidelines. Helping to reduce energy consumption has a significant impact on the environment.”

ENERGY STAR covers both residential and commercial products, including roofing, water coolers, and office equipment that would be used in the college and university market. “We look at performance data and other factors when certifying products,” Bailey says. “ENERGY STAR-qualified products are listed on our Website and manufacturers may use the certification on their product labeling.” To learn more visit the organization’s Website at www.energystar.gov.

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