There has been a significant amount of discussion over the last 5 years about the importance of building green and green technology shaping building methods and product design. But what exactly makes a product “Green?”
The United States Green Building Council is the major authority on green building in the United States and the most influential not-for-profit organization involved in the green building movement. The USGBCs goal is to “make green building available to everyone within a generation” (2010,http://www.usgbc.org/). The USGBC has created a rating system called LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). LEED rates products and their applications in building design in order to quantify the “Greenness” of a particular project. If you build parts or all of your building or retrofit it to LEED standards, you get tax incentives for a designated period of time, and some utilities offer discounted use energy rates under federally funded programs. If a product can be used and certified as a LEED product or accumulate LEED points, it is considered green.
The Flip Side
Even though the LEED program is a fantastic way to build energy efficient, there are some major flaws that deter people from using it. The first is that it is a very long and tough process to go through and rarely makes sense financially (residential customers) for the products that are worth significant points to accumulate to a LEED certification. This limits LEED to commercial applications and, depending on the location of the building, the LEED criteria stays the same, but the products that have point values do not. So even though LEED promotes efficiency and green building, it may hinder its progress unintentionally by making the program too complicated.
A Better Way to Tell if a Product Is Green
If you are looking for a simple way to tell if a product is green, look at what it is made of. If it is made out of recycled materials, has an exceptionally long life span, or reduces energy usage in any form, it is probably a green product. Cellulose insulation is an example of a green product as it is made of recycled new papers. Fiberglass insulation on the other hand, is manufactured from spun fiberglass and has very little recycled material in it, besides what falls off the conveyor belts and is inserted back into the machine.
Green product identification can be quite a mystery. Your judgment on these products should be based on what the item is made of, how long it lasts, and whether it is used to make other materials, in other words, recyclable.