This week on the radio I’m talking about what makes a particular building material environmentally friendly, or “green.”
Consumers have little to go off of apart from a manufacturer’s claim when it comes to really knowing the true ecological impact of some items. To illustrate, consider bamboo vs. wood. Which is a more ecologically sound choice for flooring?
There’s been lots of press about the quick regrowth rate of bamboo. It appears highly sustainable. But now we’re starting to hear about chemicals used during manufacturing to bind the shoots. And what about the standards for the workers producing the flooring in China? And what about the petroleum used to ship it to a house in the U.S.? How does the product then compare to oak harvested from a sustainable forest in the U.S.?
I am not making the claim that either one is better than the other, just that it’s not a black and white issue. It seems there is no perfect material and there are always tradeoffs.
That leads to the question, what makes a material “green?” This list posted on the green building website for the State of California has what I think looks to be a pretty thorough list of considerations:
Factors for evaluating a green building material
Resource Efficiency (embodied energy):
- Recycled Content
- Natural, plentiful or renewable
- Resource efficient manufacturing process
- Locally available
- Salvaged, refurbished, or remanufactured
- Reusable or recyclable
- Recycled or recyclable product packaging
Indoor Air Quality:
- Low or non-toxic
- Minimal chemical emissions
- Low-VOC assembly
- Healthfully maintained
- Systems or equipment for identifying pollutants
- Materials, components, and systems that help reduce energy consumption
- Products and systems that help reduce water consumption