How Green is a Product?

There are many things to consider when building a new home or remodeling your existing home.  Green products are one such thing to consider.  However, it can be difficult to figure out how green a product really is. 

While at a conference, Eric Phelps from Victoria + Albert Baths, gave us a great list of questions to help address a product’s “greenness.”   The following questions will help you learn more about green products.

 Examine the manufacturer’s commitment to sustainability:

–          Is there a written, working environmental policy in place?

–          Is it easy to find green information on their website or in their product literature?

–          Does this policy strive to make important improvements in manufacturing, reducing and reusing

–          first, then recycling?

–          Do they comply with their industry’s voluntary testing programs?

Examine the product’s composition:

–          What are the raw materials used to create the product and where do they come from?

–          Did the materials come from renewable resources?

–          Is the manufacturing process energy efficient?

–          Does the manufacturing process release harmful substances?

–          Are adhesives needed to make the product viable? If so, what are they using?

–          Are coatings or finishes needed to make the product viable? Is so, what are they using?

Examine other aspects of the product:

–          Does the product nurture the health and well-being of its occupants?

–          Does the product do the job well?

–          How much energy does it use?

–          Does the product release VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds)? At what rate?

–          How is the product packaged and transported?

–          How is the product installed and maintained?

–          Does it have a color or texture that can lead to reduced lighting energy or an expanded range of thermal comfort conditions?

–          Can the product be maintained in a benign manner using safe cleaning products?

Examine strategies for disposal:

–          Is the product durable? Biodegradable?  Recyclable?

–          Can the parts be separated for recycling?

–          Can it be made into something else?

–          Can the product be returned to its manufacturer at the end of its useful life?