Certifications To Know

a disclosure tool by International Living Future Institute used in the Living Building Challenge. It 'declares' where a product comes from, what it is made of, and where does it go at end of life. It is a self-disclosure tool for the manufacturer that takes them at their word.

is a term used in life-cycle analysis to describe a material or product that is recycled into a new product at the end of its life, so that ultimately there is no waste. Cradle 2 Cradle is a third party accredited certifier for disclosing product composition and evaluation. This robust system requires that the manufacturer disclose the required chemistry in the production of the material or product. C2C focuses on building materials, interior design products, textiles and fabrics, paper and packaging, and personal and homecare products.

this is a single attribute government certification system that relies on manufacturer- supplied data or third party testing, and focuses on energy consuming products.

Environmental Product Declaration. This declaration of products focuses on environmental and sustainability qualities. An EPD is an independently verified and registered document that communicates transparent and comparable information about the life-cycle environmental impact of products in a credible way. An EPD is a so-called type III environmental declaration that is compliant with the ISO 14025 standard.

a third party certification for forests and forestry-related products.

this is a multi-attribute third party certified system managed by the UL Environment that focuses on indoor air quality, children, schools and the products used in this arena.

as a third party certified ISO - Type 1 program, Green Seal looks at a wide range of products and categories such as carpets, textiles, wood products, insulation, and more.

Health Product Declaration Collaborative - is a non-profit member association with over 300 organizational members, representing the full spectrum of the building industry: architects, designers, building owners, communities, manufacturers, consultants, tool developers, and standards programs. They have created:
The Health Product Declaration (HPD)
this provides a standardized practice of reporting the material contents of building products, and the health effects associated with these materials.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Available for virtually all building types, LEED provides a framework for healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings.

a government label or certification based on third party testing that focuses on water-using appliances such as showerheads, toilets, faucets, urinals, and valves.

General Terms

Made from safe materials, natural or synthetic, that do not cause harmful off-gassing or hazardous impact on people or the environment.

Recycled Content
Products or materials that contain a high percentage of materials that used to be something else.

Products or materials that can be made into something else once disposed of.

Products or materials that can be naturally fed back into the earth while they decompose.

Locally Harvested
Products or materials that did not travel more than 500 miles to reach you.

Low Embodied Energy
Doesn't require large amounts of energy to manufacture, gather, or transport; low-impact and non-polluting.

Anything that causes an allergic reaction, such as pollen, dust mites, or animal dander (skin protein that flakes off).

Also known as Antibacterials or Biocides. Class of chemicals used in many personal care and consumer products to kill or inhibit the growth of microbes. Antimicrobials of concern include halogenated aromatic compounds such as triclosan and triclocarban; nanosilver; and quaternary ammonium compounds (quats) such as benzalkonium chloride.

A preservative treatment for wood. Inorganic arsenic is not only an acute toxin, but also a known human carcinogen.

The process of a substance or material breaking down or decomposing by microorganisms and then reduced to organic or inorganic molecules which can be further utilized by living systems. Biodegradation can be aerobic, if oxygen is present, or anaerobic, if no oxygen is present.

An approach to innovative design that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies. The goal is to create products and a lifestyle that adapt to life on earth long-term, without harm.

Alternatives to petroleum-based plastics, bioplastics come from renewable biomass sources, such as vegetable fats and oils, corn starch, straw, woodchips, and food waste. These bioplastics do pose challenges – the proper recovery of these new materials at the end of their life. They can contaminate traditional plastic recycling and give off methane if disposed in landfills.

Bisphenol A (BPA)
Bisphenols are industrial chemicals used in creating some polycarbonate plastic (hard plastic) products like water bottles, food storage containers, packaging, sports equipment, electronic casing, CDs, and appliances. Epoxy resin liners of aluminum cans, cash register receipts, car parts, and eyeglasses also contain bisphenols. They mimic or block hormones, disrupting body systems, causing health hazards to all humans, but those with young, fragile, or compromised immune systems in particular.

Carbon Footprint
The total amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted into the atmosphere each year by a person, family, building, organization, or company.

A chemical substance or mix of chemical substances that induce cancer or increase its occurrence.

Chemicals of Concern
An official list published by the EPA of 90 chemicals selected based on their potential for high hazard and exposure, as well as other considerations. The first 10 chemicals on the list were published on December 19, 2016 through an amendment to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Circular Economy
A circular economy is an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose) in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life.

Climate Change
Average weather conditions changing over multiple decades or longer. These include: climate change temperature increases and decreases, rainfall shifts, risks from certain types of severe weather events, and changes to other features of the climate system that may cause hazardous effects.

Closed-Loop Recycling (also known as Circular Economy)
A recycling process whereby the product is remanufactured into the same product type. (Aluminum can be recycled into aluminum cans.)

A material biologically decomposes in a compost site with the materials not broken down into carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds, and biomass without adverse environmental effects (such as residual plastic left in the soil).

Design for Disassembly (DfD)
When buildings and products are intentionally designed to dis-assemble into the original materials for recovery or recycle while maintaining their value and meaningful next use.

Eliminating toxins through design choices, i.e., using mechanical fasteners instead of adhesives.

The reporting to the public or third parties by manufacturers about product ingredients, impacts, or other attributes.

Embodied Energy
Amount of energy consumed to make a product. Includes the energy needed to mine, harvest and gather natural resources and raw materials, and to manufacture and transport finished materials or products to their destination.

The stage in a product’s life where it is no longer used, and is discarded as waste, recycled, or upcycled into a new product.

Environmental Health
The relationships between people and their environment; promotes human health and well-being; and fosters healthy and safe communities.

Environmental Justice
The fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, culture, national origin, income, and educational levels with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of protective environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

Environmentally Preferable Product (EPP)
Environmentally preferable products have less negative impact on human health and the environment when compared to comparable products or services that serve the same purpose. This applies to raw materials, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, use, reuse, operation, maintenance, and disposal. EPPs have more than one environmental attribute.

Flame Retardants
Chemicals added to products to reduce their flammability. Found in textiles, plastics, coatings, finishes and foams. Halogenated flame retardants – those made with chlorine or bromine – are particularly toxic to human health, and the planet.

Green Chemistry
The design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the generation of hazardous substances.

Advertising a product or process as "green" or environmentally friendly, when, in fact, it is not, nor does it achieve the advertised marketing claims. A false or misleading picture of environmental friendliness is used to conceal or obscure damaging activities, harmful ingredients, or use of the product that can cause a hazard.

High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) Filter
Filter which removes 99.97% of all particles greater than 0.3 micrometers and satisfies standards of efficiency set by the Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technology.

Highly Fluorinated Chemicals
Highly fluorinated chemicals are used in cookware, clothing, outdoor apparel, carpeting, and food packaging to provide oil- and water-resistant properties. Some are associated with kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disruption, elevated total cholesterol, and obesity.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)
The health and comfort of building occupants as it relates to the air quality within and around buildings and structures. Indoor air pollutants can come from outside or can result from indoor activities such as burning candles, smoking, cleaning, cooking, and new products or materials that include toxic chemicals.

Life Cycle
The inputs, outputs, and potential environmental impacts of a product from its sourcing to its end of use.

Open-Loop Recycling
When a product is remanufactured into other products that are different from the original primary product. A tire into road components, a window into glass bowls; upcycling or downcycling.

Substances that come from animal or plant sources, with no additives or modified components.

A chemical created from refining crude oil. Petrochemicals are used as raw materials in manufacturing industrial chemicals, fabrics, fertilizers, clear finishes, pesticides, plastics, paints, medicines, and many other products.

Chemicals used to soften plastics in many consumer products – children’s toys, plastic containers, and personal care products. Phthalates are now known to seep out these products, especially if heated or abraded, and studies show they disrupt the body’s regulating hormone/endocrine system.

Technically speaking, a material that can be ‘recycled’ at least once after its initial use. The material’s physical and mechanical properties allow it to be re-melted or size reduced and used as filler with similar or dissimilar materials (downcycled). It is better to choose materials that recycle into like or higher-value products when possible.

To maintain ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources.

Recycling something so that the resulting product is of a higher value than the original thing; creating an object of greater value from something that was discarded.

Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs
Large group of organic chemicals that can evaporate into the indoor air under normal temperature conditions and into the outdoor air, causing harmful environmental impacts. VOCs are released indoors by many man-made products and materials.

Hazardous Chemicals

20 Chemicals to Avoid

Highly toxic, known carcinogen found in building materials, foams & furniture, air fresheners, mold & mildew cleaners, synthetic carpets, permanent press draperies, bubble bath.

Volatile chemical, can damage eyes, respiratory tract, skin – found in glass cleaners, oven cleaners, floor wax, toilet cleaner, fertilizers house cleaners.

Strong corrosive, can irritate/burn the skin, eyes & respiratory tract – found in laundry products, household scrubbing products, oxidizers, antimicrobials. Can cause pulmonary edema or coma if ingested. Combined with ammonia, bleach causes deadly fumes.

Can poison if ingested. Damage to lungs & internal organs – found in dishwashing detergents, water purifiers, disinfectants, building products.

Lye, hydrochloric acid or trichloroethane; causes skin & eye irritations – found in dry cleaning process of clothes.

Highly flammable, can cause skin and lung cancer – found in furniture polishes & finishes, lip gloss, liquid gas, fertilizer, pesticides, plastics, paint thinners, solvents, motor oil, fuels.

Preservative used widely in cosmetics. Interferes with hormone function in both men & women – found in beer, cosmetics, sauces, desserts, soft drinks.

Harms the immune system and disrupts hormone function – found in antibacterial cleaners, facewashes, toothpastes. May actually make us more resistant to antibiotic use.

Group of compounds used to soften, smooth, or moisten – found in skin care products, home products, baking utensils, pans, baby products. D4 and D5 are considered hormone disruptors, bioaccumulate in aquatic organisms – found in nipples, pacifiers, implants, windshield coating, lubricants, sealants.

Causes itching, flakes or skin cracks, also mouth and canker sores – found in foaming agent used in cosmetics, shampoos.

Chemicals used to make plasticizers; can damage liver, lungs, kidneys – found in vinyl shower curtains, PVC (vinyl) floors, cosmetics, even reproductive system shampoos, soaps, plastic toys.

Bisphenol A, can cause harm to brain and prostate glands, can impact behavior – found in water bottles, consumer electronics, paints, varnishes, floors.

Liquid solvent used to expand, thin or mix product, can cause neuro disorders – found in paints & thinners, fuel, fingernail polish, lacquers, adhesives.

Synthetic aroma compounds that bioaccumulate & disrupt cell functioning and hormone systems – found in perfumes, fresheners, cosmetics, deodorants.

Some suspected human carcinogens linked to cancer, kidney damage, reproductive problems – found in waterproof clothing, shoes, no-iron clothing/sheets.

Chemicals used in biocides & pesticides; cause neurotoxic effects, liver & renal toxicity – found in wood preservatives, PVC plastics, fungicides, pesticides.

BFRS (Brominated Flame Retardant)
Affects endocrine, immune, reproductive, and nervous systems – used to reduce the flammability in plastics, textiles and electronics.

Impacts bone marrow & decreases red blood cells, leading to anemia, leukemia – found in paint, varnish, building materials, furniture wax, glues.

Serious exposure causes sleepiness, stumbling, irregular heartbeat, fainting, or even death – used in the printing, rubber, and leather industries.