Published by Antoinette Siu on 28 Mar 2012 at 10:25 am
This week, we want to feature a new guest blogger from BuildingGreen, an independent company dedicated to providing accurate and unbiased information to help building-industry professionals and policy makers improve environmental performance of buildings. The original post was written by Jennifer Atlee, research director at BuildingGreen.
It’s easy to get lost in a sea of greenwash. Our updated GreenSpec criteria provide clear direction on what makes a product green.
BuildingGreen has been defining what makes a product green since the start of the GreenSpec directory in 1998–and we’re repeatedly surprised by how far and wide our list of green attributes travels. The industry is not static, though, and it is our aim to continue providing a compass that points from today’s best practices to truly sustainable materials management.
This month’s EBN feature article on what makes a product green lays out our “green attributes” for 2012–a set of broad criteria and definitions, knit together with life-cycle thinking, that we use to evaluate products for listing in GreenSpec. Key changes from our last update in 2006 show both how far we have come and how much further we have left to go in achieving the kind of materials management that would support a sustainable society.
Bio-based materials aren’t green just because they’re bio-based.
It’s time to raise the level of scrutiny on all of them–not just wood. We’ve provided extensive coverage over the years on the debate over wood certifications, and we’ve also helped guide designers to the latest in rapidly renewable materials–but that’s not enough. While bio-based materials hold the promise of true sustainability and regeneration of ecosystems instead of damage to them, bio-based materials today can be at least as problematic as any other material.
In the past, we’ve provided provisional approval to polymers with bio-based content and other innovations that we see as stepping stones toward a sustainable materials system based on renewables, but we can’t let the industry stop with these half-steps. Alone, bio-based materials can make things worse instead of better.
Green is about the behavior of whole industries.
Green isn’t just about the product or even the life cycle of the product. It’s about the behavior of whole industries. Preferentially purchasing from responsible companies increases the impact of green procurement. By focusing on Information Transparency and applauding companies who provide deeper data, we’ll see increasingly marked improvements in the information available as companies get the hint that obfuscation and partial truth is no longer an option. By focusing on Responsible Corporate Practices, we make it clear that it’s no longer possible for a manufacturer simply to create one product for a niche “green” market while continuing business as usual with other product lines.
It’s time to consider resiliency and adaptation, not just emissions reductions.
I still think “Global Weirding” is the best description yet for what climate change will bring–and already is bringing through increased and increasingly dramatic storms and weather anomalies. Alex Wilson’s blog series on Resilient Design highlights how to address these issues in buildings, but GreenSpec is also stepping up to the task of identifying products that uniquely contribute to resiliency. (Also watch for Alex’s special feature article on resilience in March.)
Those familiar with our Green Attributes will find many other changes. We hope the changes will make it easier to understand and use these guidelines in the process of defining for yourself what makes a product green in the context of your projects. It won’t stop here. With “What Makes a Product Green” we’re signaling direction. The next step is to work with you on heading down that path. As 2012 progresses, you’ll see us diving deeper into the key issues outlined above.
The original blog post can be found here.
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