A basic guide to understanding eco-labels and environmental standards.

Posted: 8th June 2021

As a sustainability focused interior design studio, we are cautious when making decisions on so called ‘green’ or eco products, as many companies try to hide behind substandard environmental approaches to appear to be supporting sustainability. You can never be truly confident in a product’s credentials until you thoroughly research it and make inquiries for evidential proof. Making sustainable choices is always down to a weigh up of pros and cons – these include the composition of the materials themselves, resource management & conservation, company values, transportation and location, manufacturing processes, life cycle impacts and benefits, human and ecological toxicity, socio-economic impacts and benefits, total costs and life cycle costs, and technical performance to list a few. At Boaz Studio we try to pick what’s best for the client, their community, and the planet, combined.

savvy saucing

Ecolabels confirm a product’s environmental performance within different categories. Some provide analysis of the product whilst others investigate aspects of a products lifecycle from manufacturing processes to end of life. There are two categories of ecolabelling: first-party and third-party. Third-party ecolabelling offers impartial certification of products or services which are independently determined. First-party labels include claims such as recyclability, or cause-related marketing such as charity donation, by the product providers. Both categories are relevant when deciding on a product for a scheme, however third-party labelling programs present absolute assurity.

A pile of folded natural fabrics, from pinky coral to creamy white.

Mel Poole on Unsplash

 

textile and interior eco-labels

 

EU Ecolabel

The EU Ecolabel is a voluntary, government sponsored label administrated by the European Union. They certify products which demonstrate environmental sensitivity from beginning to end of its lifecycle: from raw material extraction, to production, distribution, and disposal. Ensuring the product is fit for purpose is also important. The EU Ecolabel examines several performance criteria.

 

Cradle to Cradle

Cradle to Cradle is a product standard that promotes a switch from the current linear consumption (landfill) to a more circular model (e.g., reuse, recycle). This approach echoes the cyclic design model outlined by chemist Michael Braungart and architect William McDonough in their book, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. (A read Alice at Boaz Studio highly recommends!). The criteria are assessed by five levels of certification: Basic, Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. The assessment categories include material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness.

 

Oeko-Tex® Standard 100

A globally recognised certification primarily concerned with the protection of human health and tests both raw materials and finished products for harmful chemicals and those that are prohibited or regulated by law.

 

furniture and building certifications

 

BREEM

BREEM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) is the world’s longest established third-party method of certifying, assessing, and rating the sustainability of buildings. It evaluates the building’s whole lifecycle, from new construction to in-use and refurbishment.

 

LEED

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, is an internationally recognised green building certification system. It evaluates strategies implemented within a building such as water efficiency, improved indoor environmental quality, energy savings, CO2 emissions reduction, and sensitivity of material resources.

 

International WELL Building Institute

WELL is a globally leading tool for advancing human health and wellbeing where buildings are concerned. WELL sets scientifically backed pathways for accomplishing healthy spaces that support human physical and mental health.

 

SKA rating

Ska Rating by RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) is an environmental assessment tool for non-domestic fit-out projects covering ‘good practice’ measures such as waste, water, energy, CO2 emissions, pollution, materials, transport, and wellbeing.

 

Möbelfakta

Möbelfakta is a Swedish furniture reference and labelling system with a database of products that meet their requirements in quality, environment and social responsibility. It is run by Möbelfakta Sverige AB, a non-profit company owned by IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute and The Swedish Federation of Wood and Furniture Industry, TMF.

 

Greenguard

Products that achieve GREENGUARD Certification are scientifically proven to meet some of the world’s most rigorous third-party chemical emissions standards, helping with the reduction of poor indoor air quality and risk of chemical exposure (VOCs).

 

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

The Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) promotes environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world’s forests.

 

An alphabetical index of 87 ecolabels in the UK can be found here

 

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