Green, Green, What Does it Mean?

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Eco friendly, energy efficient, environmentally safe, green design, low impact, minimal footprint, natural materials, recycled, renewable resource, and sustainable are some of the many terms you read or hear that describe the global green movement.  The intention of the green design movement is to tread carefully on our Earth by changing our lifestyles and our building procedures. There are so many certifications, classifications, labels and terms describing the many products and standards of “green“ that it can be difficult to navigate your way through it all. Here is a short list of explanations of some of these terms according to the organizations that use them:


ecologoFounded in 1988 by the Government of Canada but now recognized worldwide, EcoLogo is one of North America’s largest environmental standard and certification marks. EcoLogo provides an assurance that the products and services bearing the logo meet specific standards of environmental leadership and sustainable products.


energystarENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices. You will typically see this rating on household products ranging from appliances to cooling and heating systems, home electronics, lighting and office equipment. For the home, energy efficient choices can turn into saving on your family’s energy bill with similar savings of greenhouse gas emissions without sacrificing features, style or comfort. When looking for new household products or a new home, look for ones that have earned the ENERGY STAR certification, as they meet strict energy-efficiency guidelines set by the EPA and US Department of Energy.

Forest Stewardship Council

fscThe Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an independent, non-governmental, not-for-profit organization established to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests. Purchasing wood and wood products with this label gives you the assurance that consideration of the environment and wildlife was given. The label can be seen on furniture, flooring materials, paper and wood building supplies. FSC certification is preferred over Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI) certification, as the FSC is seen as a more independent body not under the influence of the furniture industry.


greenguardThe mission of the Greenguard Environmental Institute (GEI) is to improve public health through programs that improve indoor air quality. GEI was founded in June of 2001 to establish a true third-party product certification program based on proven emissions standards and to provide specifying and procurement professionals with a resource for low-emitting products. Products that are Greenguard certified will have little, if any, effect on your indoor air quality.


leedThe Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), provides standards for environmentally sustainable construction. The LEED system was created to accomplish the following:

  • Define “green building” by establishing a common standard of measurement
  • Promote integrated, whole-building design practices
  • Recognize environmental leadership in the building industry
  • Stimulate green competition
  • Raise consumer awareness of green building benefits
  • Transform the building market

Recycled & Recyclable

recycleThis symbol is recognized all over the world to designate recycled and recyclable materials.  There are many versions of it but it is typically seen with three arrows moving around in an unending loop.  Read the packaging of any product containing this logo to determine whether it contains recycled content. Ideally, consumers would be purchasing products made from recycled materials and recycling any materials that can be recycled to complete the life cycle.

U.S. Green Building Council

usgbcThe U.S. Green Building Council is a 501(c) (3) non-profit community of leaders working to make green buildings available to everyone.  Their mission is to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Volatile organic compounds are organic chemical compounds that have high enough vapor pressures under normal conditions to significantly vaporize and enter the atmosphere. These compounds are found in cleaning products, paints and paint strippers and can seriously affect indoor air quality. When purchasing these types of products, it is best to look for zero or low-VOC options.


watersenseWaterSense is a partnership program sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a means to efficiently use water, save water, and protect the environment.  The WaterSense label will be on water-efficient products such as faucets, sinks, urinals, toilets, showerheads, and landscape irrigation systems.

This guest post was written by Charisse Marie Colbert, an interior designer at  CMC Design Studio in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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1 comment… add one
  • Harmony March 16, 2009, 4:27 pm

    Don’t forget GOTS –
    “The aim of the standard is to define requirements to ensure organic status of textiles, from harvesting of the raw materials, through environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing up to labelling in order to provide a credible assurance to the end consumer. “

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