Aquick look at any number of products – especially with paints and coatings – and you might find one of many green certifications that assure the product’s adherence to specific green qualifications. The seemingly limitless
number of “green” products provide ample opportunity to find
products that are sustainable.
However, the concept of “green” has become less clear as more
manufacturers have employed the word to mean almost anything.
The very term “green” can suggest a multitude of aspects of a
given product, so these certifications can mean little without a
greater understanding of what they are and who makes them.
BUILDINGS has profiled some of the most recognizable green
certifications for paints and coatings – laying out what their
labels mean to you.
As an independent, non-profit organization, Green Seal’s certi-
fication program is designed to promote eco-friendly products by
evaluating them against their performance, health and environmen-
tal criteria. As an organization, Green Seal promotes manufacturing,
purchasing and using products and services that fit under the wide
umbrella of “environmentally friendly.”
Green Seal’s standards for paints and coatings are robust.
They provide certification for qualifying products within 16
different categories, each with its own unique guidelines.
Beyond the chemical makeup and product-specific guidelines
set, Green Seal also includes requirements for health, packaging
and consumer education.
Once a product receives the mark of certification, Green Seal
monitors the product regularly to hold companies accountable for
their green products over the long term. That way, manufacturers
must maintain their green specs to keep their certification.
In addition to testing products, Green Seal also provides programs to promote green practices in buildings and institutions.
Green Purchasing, for example, is an initiative where Green Seal
helps organizations take part in environmentally preferable purchasing practices, and the Green Seal Mail Partnership Program has
teamed up with the U.S. Postal Service to promote greener mail
Learn more about Green Seal at www.greenseal.org.
UL Environment acquired GREENGUARD in 2011 as a means to
expand its efforts in promoting sustainability and safety. Formerly
known as the GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality Certification, the
GREENGUARD Certification Program may have changed its name,
but IAQ is still its focus.
The GREENGUARD emission criteria for paints and coatings
has a series of clear benchmarks any product needs to meet
for certification. A product under review should not exceed a
Threshold Limit Value (TLV) of 0.1 or emit more than 0.05 ppm of
formaldehyde, 0.07 mg/m3 of styrene, 0.5 mg/m3 of total VOCs
and 0.1 ppm of total aldehydes. Additionally, the criteria contains
five requirements based on various standards and statutes that all
relate to air quality.
Achieving GREENGUARD certification means that a product
designed for indoor use meets these strict emission limits for
healthier interiors. The GREENGUARD Gold Certification has
stricter guidelines. Gold recognizes products that consider air
safety for sensitive individuals (like children and the elderly)
and is therefore acceptable to use in education and healthcare
To receive GREENGUARD certification, a product is tested in
dynamic environmental chambers that convert recorded emission
levels to calculate air concentrations of what an occupant will
In addition to finding the GREENGUARD label on a product,
the GREENGUARD Product Guide offers the opportunity for FMs
to find certified products for free online. To find out more about
GREENGUARD, visit www.greenguard.org.
Also a UL Environment certification, ECOLOGO includes IAQ in its
standards like GREENGUARD but expands its focus beyond emissions.
The standards for ECOLOGO are from metrics that are more
broadly concerned with green issues and sustainability. “This standard is designed to support a continuing effort to improve and
maintain environmental quality by reducing energy and material
consumption and by minimizing the impacts of pollution generated by the production, use and disposal of goods and services,”
Sorting Out Green Certifications for
Paints and Coatings
What exactly do those green labels mean?