14472 Wed, 05/14/2008 - 2:58pm
By Jennifer Quail
NEW YORK–Following in the footsteps of commercial-level certification programs, most notably The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System, new groups have popped up and established organizations expanded their watch to create industrywide standards for classifying varied home furnishings products as green.
Under the tagline of “Furnish a better future,” the Sustainable Furniture Council was formed with the dual purpose of promoting sustainable practices within the home furnishings industry and raising awareness among both consumers and buyers. The non-profit follows the idea that furniture companies need not only concern themselves with the use of good wood, for which it has established varying degrees of certification, but that the industry must also recognize and account for its other contributions to the health of the planet; for example, transportation emissions, energy use and packaging waste.
The SFC published for peer review the first set of industry green standards in October 2007. Their development was based on input from a wide base of sources, including materials suppliers, manufacturers, retailers and representatives of the Rainforest Alliance and World Wildlife Fund. They followed the successful LEED model for commercial buildings and incorporate certification by the Forest Stewardship Council. A public advertising campaign and in-store tagging program, so that consumers can easily identify both retailers and products that exceed SFC’s standards, is in the works as well.
In the floor covering industry, the Carpet and Rug Institute made the move to establish its Green Label program back in 1992 and recently improved upon those standards with Green Label Plus for carpet and adhesives. The enhanced program sets an even higher standard for indoor air quality and ensures customers are purchasing product with the lowest emissions of volatile organic compounds. This particular program has been for the installed carpet sector, but rug importers and manufacturers are now seeking certification for their wool products as well, products industry executives maintain have always been environmentally friendly, but for which they now need a method of proof to appease buyers and consumers. Carroll Turner, a representative for CRI, said the organization is considering going in the direction of inspecting and certifying rugs, but a decision has yet to made. Turner said the main focus of the Green Label programs is to classify installed product with low levels of VOCs, a factor not as pressing for goods that can easily be removed from the home.
Even Cotton Incorporated, a group representing a renewable and biodegradable product straight from Mother Nature, works to help its cotton growers decrease their reliance on pesticides and irrigation, while still improving the quantity and quality of their yields.
Cotton in the states is actually regulated as a food crop and governed by a regulatory system that ensures food and fiber safety. According to Cotton Incorporated, the United States is among the first adopters of new technologies that are driving environmental improvement, such as biotech varieties, integrated pest management strategies and water optimization strategies.
Cotton does have the potential to earn “organic” status, but the USDA standards for certification are stringent. USDA-certifying agents annually inspect fields and the sites’ full operation for adherence to National Organic Program standards. NOP standards require a three-year conversion for land before organic crops can be harvested.