Whether as designers or design aficionados, by this point we are all familiar with the LEED certification standards which tell us how sustainable buildings are, based on a specific set of criteria. And when designing a “green” project, whether the end goal is to obtain some level of certification or not, there’s much leg work to be done in order to source eco-friendly, healthy interior materials, learn how they are manufactured, and understand exactly what their environmental impact is. With so much green-washing in the marketplace due to the recent popularity of sustainability, this can be a time consuming task, to say the least. And often times it seems that residential products are either overlooked by sustainable product developers, or are not as well marketed as their commercial counterparts, which makes it challenging for the public to “green” our own homes.
Green Product Certifications
However, many companies are striving to be more transparent and make information regarding their sustainable practices more readily available . Some even go as far as having their products certified by a third party, much like the LEED program for buildings. UL (Underwriters Laboratories) has been providing safety analysis since 1894 and now provide product certification based on environmental impact, indoor air quality, etc. UL has an online database of certified products, which you can filter by LEED credit, which is primarily useful if you are working on a green construction project.
Measuring Product Sustainability
Yet finding sustainable materials for residential applications, especially smaller-scale projects, remains challenging if you don’t have a showroom in your area that promotes eco-friendly products, until recently. One organization has emerged that helps give definition to the standards by which we measure sustainability in a way that’s straight forward and easy for the public to understand. Their database of certified products also includes residential materials, textiles, fashion, and health and beauty products, as well as commercial building materials, making it useful for anyone, whether remodeling or not. It’s called the Cradle To Cradle Products Innovation Institute. Similar to the LEED rating system, Cradle To Cradle gives products a rating based on five categories:
- Material Health
- Material Reutilization
- Renewable Energy and Carbon Management
- Water Stewardship
- Social Fairness
More information on the certification process is available here.
While the number of products that have currently obtained certification is still somewhat limited, the listings on their website provide a good jumping off point for sourcing sustainable materials as well as beginning a dialogue about what qualifies a product as truly “sustainable”. I compiled a few favorites from the interior-related categories that are not only eco-friendly, but are also beautiful products that I would feel confident specifying for a client. And, all of the products below can be used in residential settings.Feature Image: Eco-friendly loft in Tribeca with healthy interior materials. Image via Inhabitat.