How to Choose Sustainable Products for Your Home

White Paper How to Choose Sustainable Products for Your Home Make sure all of the products in your home are truly sustainable. August 2012 What is su...
Author: Britney Hoover
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White Paper

How to Choose Sustainable Products for Your Home Make sure all of the products in your home are truly sustainable. August 2012 What is sustainability? These days everything from trash bags to whole communities is labeled as "sustainable." What does that really mean? The essence of the term sustainable is "that which can be maintained over time." On a larger scale, the United Nations' World Commission on Environment and Development defined "sustainable development" as development that "meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." To bring it closer to home, the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery says the concept of sustainable building "incorporates and integrates a variety of strategies during the design, construction and operation of building projects. The use of green building materials and products represents one important strategy in the design of a building." © 2012 | Sponsored by SCHOTT

For the sake of our discussion in this white paper sponsored by SCHOTT, we'll review ways to select sustainable building materials and products that improve the performance of your home. Using sustainable products in your home offers three benefits that we'll discuss:  Improved resource efficiency  Improved indoor air quality  Reduced life cycle impact Choosing sustainable products requires looking at the entire life cycle of a product, from the raw materials used to create it to what happens to it after its useful life is over. It may take a little work to make the greenest choices. And, different green goals may conflict with one another. But the more you learn and the more questions you ask, the better equipped you will be to find greener products. Page 1

Consider the product's resource efficiency For many major home products such as appliances, cladding, paint, flooring and building products, manufacturers inform consumers about the raw materials and manufacturing processes that result in the products. Start by looking for products with identifiable recycled content, including postindustrial content with a preference for post-consumer content, which helps keep waste out of landfills. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's "Green Building Guide," salvaging building materials and reusing them saves energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the need to extract and process raw materials and ship new material long distances. Also look for resource-efficient manufacturing process. These processes reduce energy consumption, minimize waste and reduce greenhouse gases.

SCHOTT CERAN® cooktops are made in an ecofriendly manufacturing process.

© 2012 | Sponsored by SCHOTT

Eco-friendly manufacturing processes take into account the materials used as well. For example, CERAN®, the glass-ceramic cooktop panel from SCHOTT, is primarily composed of natural raw materials like quartz and sand that are virtually inexhaustible.

“Flooring is another major component of a home. A wide range of sustainable options abounds as replacements for conventional synthetic carpeting.”

To make this possible, SCHOTT developed a patented melting process that eliminates the use of the toxic heavy metals arsenic and antimony when processing glass ceramic. This process allows for the removal of 180 tons of these materials per year, which would typically be needed to manufacture the glass-ceramic. The glass ceramic is used for glass cooktops found in products that are available from many appliance manufacturers. Flooring is another major component of a home. A wide range of sustainable options abounds as replacements for conventional synthetic carpeting. Homeowners can choose from reclaimed wood salvaged from old buildings, cork floor harvested from the bark of living trees, or linoleum made from sustainable materials like solidified linseed

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oil, pine resin, ground cork dust, wood flour and mineral fillers like calcium carbonate. Some common building products, such as concrete, use a significant amount of raw materials and energy to manufacture. But those products, such as home foundations, patios and driveways, also last for decades, which offsets the energy and resources used to create them.

products with a strong lemon aroma emit VOCs from natural chemicals that give off the lemon scent. One way to minimize indoor air quality problems is to avoid buying products that have a strong chemical odor. If it smells strong in the store, it will be worse when you take it home. That applies especially to things like furniture, carpet, and fabric products.

Consider indoor air quality According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the air inside the average home is up to five times more polluted than the air outside. Some of that pollution comes from things like dust, pet dander, mold and bacteria. However, chemicals from products in the home contribute to poor air quality as well. The main culprits are chemicals called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, according to the Healthy House Institute. VOCs, the most widely known of which is formaldehyde, can be found in a variety of common household items, including building materials, cleaning products, personal-care products and furniture. Formaldehyde is often found in furniture and cabinets made from particle board. The VOCs are chemicals that evaporate at room temperature. Depending on a person’s exposure and sensitivity, VOCs can cause immediate or acute health problems such as headaches, eye, nose and throat irritation and difficulty breathing. If you’ve ever felt light headed after painting a small room, you know the effects of VOCs. VOCs are not always signs of man-made chemicals. In fact, many natural products emit VOCs as well. For instances natural © 2012 | Sponsored by SCHOTT

“The main culprits are chemicals called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, according to the Healthy House Institute.”

Consider the product's life cycle When you're looking for a new cooktop or siding for your home, it may seem hard to think about how you'll dispose of that new purchase. But a product's origin and disposal play a huge role in its sustainability. Reusable or recyclable material can be easily dismantled and reused or recycled at the end of their useful life. Even the packaging can play a role. Packaging such as boxes and protective materials can be made from recycled or recyclable products that can be diverted from the waste stream.

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If you recycle products and packaging, you can close the loop by choosing products that have recycled content. These materials perform as well if not better than virgin materials and buying products with recycled content helps sustain the market for recycled materials. Look for sustainably grown and harvested materials that can be found in many household items. These products are grown in such a way that the natural resources are not used up, but can support future growth repeatedly. Sustainably harvested wood and materials are made of a rapidly renewable resource, (e.g., bamboo flooring, wool carpets and bedding, bamboo fiber clothing), agricultural waste materials (e.g., strawboard), or organically grown materials (e.g., organic cotton bedding). One thing to consider is that high quality products also tend to last longer. So a higher initial purchase price up may be offset by lower maintenance costs and less frequent replacements compared to a less expensive product. For example if you buy less expensive carpet, you may have to replace it every five to seven years instead of buying carpet that could last up to 20 years. With some research, you can choose sustainable, eco-friendly products that improve the performance and comfort of your home and minimize its environmental impact.

© 2012 | Sponsored by SCHOTT

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About the publisher and sponsor

About the sponsor: SCHOTT North America, Inc., is the North American headquarters and holding company of North American subsidiaries of the SCHOTT Group. With 16 divisions and subsidiaries in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, SCHOTT Corporation employs approximately 2,500 people for the manufacture and distribution of special glass and glass- related systems. The SCHOTT company employs over 17,500 people worldwide and has sales of approximately US $3.8 billion.

ProudGreenHome provides high quality, earnest, objective, useful and inspiring information. Our parent company is Sustainable Community Media. The news, information and insights created by ProudGreenHome creates an engaged online community, where the greatest efficiencies and sustainability are enjoyed by all.

Published by © 2012 By Gary Wollenhaupt, contributing writer

© 2012 | Sponsored by SCHOTT

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