Green Building Products and Materials – 7 Factors to Consider When Making Green Selections

There are many products on the market that claim to be green. It is up to you to determine which products are green and which are not. Beware of “green washing”! Many products are advertised as green, but after review really do not live up to their claims. Here are 7 factors to consider when selecting green or sustainable products and materials for your project.

Renewability – Are the products made from material that is rapidly renewable such as cork or bamboo? Wood products are also a renewable resource. Choose wood products that are FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified. Many engineered wood products are made from fast growing trees such as aspen and require less wood to make them than conventional lumber.

Recycled Content – Using material with recycled content not only reduces strain on our landfills, but reduces the need for raw material. Paper, cardboard, plastic, steel and aluminum are a few of the most commonly recycled materials. Recycled paper is used in cellulose insulation and paper countertops. Plastic is used in carpet. Metals that are recycled can be made into their original form.

Reusability and Recyclability – Many products, such as metals, can be recycled after their useable life. Others can be salvaged and reused somewhere else.

Durability – Choose products that will stand the test of time and require little maintenance. This will save time, money and energy on repairs at a later date.

Embodied Energy – This is the energy used to produce, transport and install a product or material in the place where it will be used. Choose local products when possible and products that do not require a large amount of energy to produce.

Air Quality – Products like carpet, cabinetry, plywood and paint can contain petroleum products or formaldehyde and off gas VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). There are now many products available that give off little or no VOCs. These products will give you a healthier home to live in. When you are not able to find suitable products, ventilate the new or remodeled space prior to moving into it. Open windows and doors when possible to remove the VOCs from the home.

Waste Reduction – Choose material that does not create a lot of waste and can be used efficiently. Order material in sizes and lengths that are efficient for your job.

Some products may be green in one area but not in another. Example: Although it is very durable, brick has a high embodied energy because of the energy used to fire the kilns and transport it. It would be a greener option for someone in North Carolina than someone in New York because the clay that is used to make it is a local product. Use these 7 factors and your best judgement to determine which green products are the best for your project.