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Simple Steps Help Set Green Product Criteria

By Greg Zimmerman, Executive Editor

Most facility managers have a good general idea of what constitutes a green product: It has a lower environmental impact than similar products of the same kind. But it's when delving into the details of that definition that the difficulty arises. The idea of matching organizational priorities — ensuring good indoor air quality, nixing particular chemicals, etc. — with product standards is a no-brainer, but beyond that, facility managers may flounder a bit.

Of course, manufacturers are more than willing to provide guidance. But some of their "warm and fuzzy claims" — as Rick Levin, associate and specifications manager at Kahler Slater and a committee member of the LEED Material and Resources Technical Advisory Group, calls them — may not be quite as credible as they seem on the surface. Indeed, selecting truly green products is often a matter of staying ahead of the marketing rhetoric before the marketing rhetoric gets the best of you. In addition, more and more third-party resources — from EPA's Environmentally Preferable Purchasing guidelines to the 377 eco-labels currently available to the Federal Trade Commission's greenwashing guidelines — make delineating green product criteria challenging. It really is almost too much to digest without hiring full-time product criteria gurus to sort through for you.

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