If you’re looking to ‘green’ your building or operations and are confused about which products and services are truly ‘green’, you’re not alone. There are many certifications on the market today – some are legitimate, while others have a way to go. Companies can make self-reported claims or obtaina legitimate third-party certification to show that they are doing what they claim to be doing. However, not all third-party certifications are created equal.
To begin with, a legitimate third-party certification is not awarded through a for-profit company or obtained on the internet for a ‘small fee’. A legitimate third-party certification requires the company to provide data to prove its claims, and requires transparency and even on-site verification. The standards that the certification is based on should be publicly available and replicable, so that others can also obtain the certification.
While there is no government entity that regulates this at the present time, there are certain certifications that are commonly accepted as legitimate in the United States and have withstood scrutiny. Some examples of these include, of course, the US Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership inEnergy and Environmental Design) green building standard, Energy Star certification for buildings and electronics, and Green Seal for green custodial/cleaning services. Other certifications to be aware of include: Forest Stewardship Council for paper and wood products, Green Label for carpets and rugs, Green Guard for chemicals in products that affect indoor air quality, Green-e for renewable energy, and Cradle to Cradle for product lifecycle.
There are other US-based certifications that are not listed here and that are also legitimate, such as the USDA Organic, but we wanted to keep the focus of the discussion on building and operations and to highlight the most commonly recognized ones in that area. Further, there are competing certifications in some of these industries, such as Green Globes for buildings, and SFI for paper/wood products, which may also be considered though they are not the leading certification presently.
In general, if a company is making a green certification claim about its product or service, be sure to check the claim and the certification before purchasing.