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If These Walls Could Talk

Decoding "Green" Jargon

07/01/2009 - More and more frequently one sees home decorating products sporting labels announcing their "greenness". Many items have badges and ratings from various green certification organizations. Who are these ratings organizations? What does their stamp of approval mean?

In preparing for this article, I researched this subject on the internet. When I typed in "green certification program", over eighteen million items popped up. There are a lot of groups vying for the opportunity to be the authority on whether a product or service is environmentally responsible. There are also a lot of manufacturers hoping to attract the business of the green bandwagon. The "green" label can be misleading. Read the fine print and find out exactly what the claim refers to, and if it is important to you.

Green is used to refer to a variety of things. A product might be energy efficient such as an appliance that uses less than an average amount of energy to function. It could be energy conserving--- reducing your need for energy like low-e glass or insulation does. The product might be considered green because it is enduring, made to last for a hundred years. Alternately, it could be bio-degradeable, rapidly deteriorating and going back to the soil. It could be recyclable--- able to be re-made into another product later. Green can mean sustainable. This means that the product is made from things that have a limitless supply. Fast-growing bamboo is an example of a sustainable source of building material. Organic is used to refer to products that are produced without chemicals or pesticides. Other green certification programs test to insure that a product is safe for a home's occupants--- that it is free from residual toxins, heavy metals, formaldehyde, carcinogens, and allergens.

To be "green" we're urged to reduce, re-use and recycle. Companies are asked to comply with government regulations, conserve resources, prevent pollution, and reduce waste. Some green certification labels can just mean that the company producing the product has found a way to produce it without wasting much material. One very vague green goal is social responsibility. This is one of those things that sound good, but can mean virtually anything, right down to embracing the correct political party.

As you shop for home decorating items, carefully read the labels, and don't be afraid to ask the company to define the way the term "green" specifically refers to their product.

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