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Sustainability 47: Green Labeling

Updated on April 2, 2010
Label him green?
Label him green?

With the world’s ever-increasing concentration on environmentally sound green design and sustainability, there has been an ever-increasing set of green design standards, guidelines, certifications and labeling. Here are some of the most prominent:

The U. S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has developed the LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, green building rating system as a tool for rating and certifying buildings and neighborhoods. Spawned in the mid-1990s, the LEED rating system has since been applied to tens of thousands of projects throughout the U.S. and around the world. Today, it is perhaps the most widely used and well recognized of all the green labeling systems.

Energy Star began as a voluntary program initiated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1992. Under the program, consumer products or appliances that typically use 20% to 30% less than standard Federal limits may be labeled as an Energy Star. Over the past several decades, the program’s use has spread to a number of other countries, and more than 50,000 Energy Star products are now available.

WaterSense is a voluntary program sponsored by the U.S. EPA, in which plumbing products or appliances are labeled if they meet certain established standards of water conservation and efficiency.

Green Globes is an assessment and rating system in widespread use throughout the U.S. and Canada. Originating in 1996 as BREEAM (Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Method) Canada, the program went online in 2000, and is now available as an internet tool for green building assessment.

Green-e, a program of the Center for Resource Solutions, is an independent rating and certification program focused on encouraging renewable energy use and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Founded in 1993, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an international non-profit devoted to responsible management of the world’s forests. It is one of several organizations (including the Sustainable Forestry Initiative or SFI) developing and applying standards and certifications to forestry products and practices.

The USDA National Organic Program is a program administered by the Department of Agriculture that certifies organic food producers based on a variety of standards applied to production, processing, packaging, delivery and sale.

Green Seal, founded in 1989, provides green standards and certifications for consumer products, building products and assemblies, based on scientifically determined environmental standards.

Beginning as the EcoVillage Institute, Green Advantage in 1998 obtained EPA grant funding to establish green training, certification and promotional programs for professionals in the building industry.

The Institute for Green Business Certification (IGBC) assists American businesses in refining a company’s green profile, especially for competitive advantage.

Nations around the globe have, of course, developed their own proprietary green design and building rating systems. The LEED system has been adapted to LEED Canada, LEED India, and LEED Brasil. DGNB in Germany, Care & Bio in France, PromisE in Finland, Protocollo Itaca in Italy, VERDE in Spain, Green Star SA in South Africa, and BREEAM in the United Kingdom all serve to rate and certify structures in those countries.

An overarching organization affecting global standards is CLASP, the nonprofit Collaborative Labeling and Appliance Standards Program. Sponsored by organizations as varied as the World Bank, the United Nations, and the U.S. EPA and DOE, among others, CLASP strives to establish global energy-efficiency and green standards and labels for  virtually any product or appliance.  

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