Lots of manufacturers call their products “green,” but are they? Here's our guide to the high-performance attributes that matter.
by the BuildingGreen editors
When BuildingGreen started publication in 1992, simply finding building products designed with environmental benefits in mind was a big challenge. We responded to that challenge in the late 1990s by developing GreenSpec, a guide to the industry’s top green building products. In the years since, we’ve seen rapid advances in green building materials and products, and manufacturers are beginning to take topics such as embodied carbon and social justice concerns—key metrics for any truly sustainable product—more seriously.
We have evaluated thousands of products since the 1990s and have had countless discussions about what makes a product green. Though products and materials have advanced, our metrics for assessing products have remained consistent, but with updates to keep ahead of industry advancements. These “Green Attributes”—a set of broad criteria and definitions that encompass a product’s full life cycle—can help design teams distinguish green from greenwash, evaluate different options, and make appropriate product selection choices to ensure a high-performing building with the lowest possible environmental and health impacts.
Speaking of health, there has never been more information available for assessing how the built environment affects human and ecological health. With Health Product Declarations, Environmental Product Declarations, the International Living Future Institute’s Declare program, restricted chemical lists, and more, the amount of information can be both valuable and daunting, so we’ve updated the essential elements of what makes a product green. We welcome input in this process of determining just what is green and how that determination plays out in specification and procurement.