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When you buy certified carpets and rugs you know the manufacturer’s environmental and health claims have been verified by an independent organization. The best certifications guarantee that carpets are made from renewable resources or recycled materials and that the company has taken steps to reduce pollutants and waste from the manufacturing process.

How to buy certified carpets and rugs

There are four certification programs for carpets and rugs and one for handmade rugs only.

Both SCS and California certifications were introduced in late 2006 and are comprehensive standards that evaluate the manufacturing process. Because these two certification programs are new, very few certified carpets and rugs are currently available. Consumers will need check the websites or specifically ask for carpets that have passed certification through “SCS Sustainable Choice," “California Sustainable Platinum” or “California Sustainable Gold." The California certifications may eventually be eliminated in favor of SCS certification.[1]

Find it! Certified carpets and rugs

Buying certified carpets and rugs helps you go green because …

Manufacturers that have been certified have made improvements in one or more of the following areas:

  • Using renewable energy and reducing overall energy.
  • Providing programs that reuse and reclaim used carpets to keep them out of the landfill.
  • Reducing water and air pollution.
  • Using bio-based and recycled materials to manufacture new carpets.
  • Reducing the emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC), thereby improving indoor air quality.

Third-party certifiers of green product claims help consumers sort through a manufacturer’s marketing hype to find the eco-friendliest products possible. Unfortunately, as an article in 101Eco-Structure Magazine102 notes, 80 to 95 percent of these product communications are not life-cycle based, as required by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Federal Trade Commission, Attorneys General, and ISO 14040 standards.[2]

SCS Sustainable Choice

SCS (Scientific Certification Systems) is an independent certifier of environmental and food safety claims. The company recently added the “SCS Sustainable Choice” program to certify manufactured products. The carpet and rug industry is the first category of building products to undergo the SCS Sustainable Choice certification process. The certification is based on the Sustainable Carpet Assessment Standard, developed by NSF International, a nonprofit that develops standards for public health and safety. Click here to view the standards. SCS certifies the following categories:

  • Safe for Public Health and Environment: Recognizes achievements in reducing pollutants and energy use that may adversely affect public health and the environment, including greenhouse gases.
  • Renewable Energy and Efficiency: Recognizes achievements in renewable content of energy used.
  • Material, Bio-based or Recycled: Recognizes achievements in utilizing recycled content, bio-based and environmentally preferable materials over the supply chain.
  • Facility or Company Based: Recognizes achievements in corporate-wide environmental programs and social responsibility.
  • Reclamation, Sustainable Reuse and End-of-life Management: Recognizes achievements in product performance, durability, reuse and reclamation.
  • Innovation: Recognizes achievements in extensive reclamation, dematerialization, energy efficiency and other quantifiable environmental improvements.

Points are awarded within each category. A company that more significantly reduces an impact is rewarded with a higher rating. The ratings correspond to four levels of certification: Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze. Platinum and Gold certified products qualify for California Platinum or California Gold certification, as well as comply with Executive Order 13101, which directs federal agencies to purchase environmentally preferable products.[3]

SCS’s certification process includes data and record reviews, as well as site visits to examine production methods, in-house laboratory procedures, energy source and consumption data, and the recycling process. An annual review is required to ensure that standards are maintained.

California Sustainable Carpet

California’s standards (California Gold and California Platinum) were adopted in 2006 and require certified sustainable carpet for all state buildings. This certification is based on the same NSF standards as SCS Sustainable Choice carpets and uses a point system identical to the NSF standard. However, California added 14 additional requirements and eliminated the bronze and silver rating options.[1] To read the standard, click here. An independent third-party certifier, such as SCS, must perform the California Gold certification.

Green Label and Green Label Plus

The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI), the industry trade association, developed these two labels to focus exclusively on indoor air quality. The Green Label Plus standard, established in 2004, tests for a wider variety of indoor air hazards than the older Green Label standard. Therefore, a Green Label Plus carpet or pad emits fewer chemical gases. If a carpet has passed either of these certifications, consumers will see CRI’s green and white logo displayed on carpet samples in the showroom.

To receive the Green Label Plus certification, carpet and padding undergo a 14-day testing process by an independent laboratory. The test measures seven chemicals as required by Section 01350, a standard specification developed by the State of California, plus six additional chemicals required by CRI:[4]

  • Acetaldehyde
  • Benzene
  • Caprolactam
  • 2-Ethylhexanoic Acid
  • Formaldehyde
  • 1-Methyl-2-Pyrrolidinone
  • Naphthalene
  • Nonanal
  • Octanal
  • 4-Phenylcyclohexene
  • Styrene
  • Toluene
  • Vinyl Acetate

Both the SCS Sustainable Choice and California Sustainable Carpet standards are also based on Section 01350 and note that compliance with Green Label Plus testing can be used to meet both SCS and California's requirements.[5][6]

Controversies

The Green Label and Green Label Plus certifications have been criticized for being developed by the industry’s trade association, rather than an independent organization. Bill Walsh, National Coordinator of Healthy Building Network criticized Green Label and Green Label Plus (and other certifications) in a June 29, 2006 article as marketing tools used by the carpet industry to "greenwash" their environmental record.[7]

However, GreenHomeGuide editors noted preference for California's Section 01350 Specification, which Green Label Plus certification complies with.[8]

Glossary

  • life-cycle based: Assessments that recognize the complex interaction between a product and the environment from cradle to grave. It is also known as Life Cycle Analysis or Ecobalance. These assessments evaluate which emissions occur and which raw materials are used during the life of a product and how they impact the environment.[9]
  • volatile organic compounds (VOCs): Organic solvents that easily evaporate into the air.[10] VOCs are emitted by thousands of products including paints, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings and they may cause immediate and long-term health problems.[11]

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