December’s free education webinar delivered a deep dive into Green Seal standards with Brie Welzer, Environmental Scientist at Green Seal, Inc. I thoroughly enjoyed learning from Ms. Welzer because she radiates a clear passion for protecting the Earth and human health. The most significant concept I learned is that the Green Seal organization views no products as ‘green’, ‘safe’, or ‘healthy.’ Manufacturing is an evolving balance game between hazard and function. This concept was a huge paradigm shift in my perspective where I previously used those words so casually. That mindfulness towards labels is mirrored in Green Seal’s certification intentions.

Green Seal Standards and LEED

From my personal point of view, I was extremely excited to have Green Seal represented as a guest in the GBES webinar series because Green Seal has been a familiar name to me through my ten-year LEED journey, most notably for the paint and cleaning product standards. Green Seal was certifying product before LEED existed, so they were a natural compliment to the building standard. The biggest game changer Green Seal delivered to LEED project teams is GS-42, the certification standard for janitorial services. From my personal experience, this has been a huge time saver for LEED project teams attempting points for green cleaning in their existing building. Basically, hire a vendor who is Green Seal certified and skip the tedious documentation.

With a history spanning the past four decades, Green Seal as an organization is focused not only on environmental actions, moreover, their priority is environmental leadership.

Green Seal and Environmental Leadership

The Green Seal certification mark is intended to be synonymous with lifecycle environmental performance that is better than conventional industry practices. The focus on environmental leadership acknowledges and allows that no product is totally benign in its externalities. The Green Seal label is also known for objectivity and professionalism. The organization supports transparency success in part from a clear divide between standard development and product certification; similar to the USGBC / GBCI divide.

What can You do for Green Seal?

The GBES community was issued a call to action. Ms. Welzer informed the audience of green building advocates that Green Seal needs community participation in standard development and approval. We all have the opportunity to submit public comments on their new renewable fibers (like bamboo) standard GS-1. Criticism, Praise, and questions are all welcome on the Green Seal website.

Green Chemistry in Product Development

I’m going to let you in on the secret recipe to get a product Green Seal certified… it’s green chemistry. I only learned about green chemistry last month at Greenbuild Boston. A leading scientist heralded green chemistry as an academic aspiration, not currently taught in most universities. Green chemistry is essentially that balance between function and hazard. Green chemistry uses the intrinsic desires of elements to work with nature rather than against it. Ms. Welzer mentioned green chemistry multiple times during the webinar. I am so happy Green Seal confirmed actual implementation of green chemistry being practiced by manufacturers seeking Green Seal certification. This is a perfect example of environmental leadership transforming the market.

Standard Development

Another huge success story for the iterative process of standard development is Green Seal updating their standard for windows. I didn’t previously know that Green Seal certifies windows. They also certify hotels and restaurants too! But back to windows, the window industry has proven resilient in adapting to support reduced life-cycle impacts across the entire industry. Therefore, the GS-13 Standard for windows requires a revision to accurately define environmental leadership on today’s market. As consumers, we can look forward to more innovation in window manufacturing to win competitive advantage.

Some common building products don’t have industry standards, like trash bags and paint thinners. There are not enough variables in the chemistry to establish market differentiation, so there is no clear leadership in that product category. This shows Green Seal compassion for their customers, the manufacturers, because they strive to make the standards attainable rather than aspirational.

Green Seal for Environmental Innovation

Finally, the webinar concluded with an introduction to GS-20, a standard to certify products that are environmentally innovative. Remember, just because a manufacturer publishes an EPD or HPD, it doesn’t signify that their product is more or less harmful than conventional industry practices. GS-20 bridges that gap and provides validation that an environmental claim is quantifiably more benign than other products in the same category. It also serves as a catch-all mark for future innovation of products that don’t fit into one category.

At the end of the day, you can feel confident that the Green Seal mark validates environmental claims with the highest integrity and transparency. As advocates and consumers, we can trust that Green Seal will continue to evolve with us in the ‘green’ and ‘healthy’ marketplace.