By JoAnn Durette
It is widely known that a well-defined sustainability strategy is beneficial to a company’s bottom line. Sustainable facility management strategies concern energy and water efficiency, high-quality indoor environments, resource conservation, and environmentally conscious purchasing decisions — and there are many moving parts. Energy and water conservation are pervasive and generally the top priorities. So, when facility executives are involved in selecting flooring products, whether replacing worn surfaces or as part of a construction project team, performance and cleanability attributes are the primary concerns, and sustainability often takes a backseat.
Durability and stain resistance are essential, but it is easier than you might think to evaluate green flooring characteristics as it relates to material and chemical ingredients, green manufacturing practices, recurring maintenance requirements, longevity, and what happens at the end of its useful life.
Here are some simple things that make it easier to find green floor covering, ensure that new materials don’t negatively impact your resources, and ultimately improve the quality of your indoor environment.
Look For Labels
Looking for labels saves time and helps cut through the greenwashing noise. You can search for flooring products with these green certifications to help you achieve specific sustainability goals. Most certification platforms maintain a searchable and publicly accessible database from their website. Also, manufacturers typically display certification labels prominently on their website and in marketing materials.
- FloorScore is a third-party certification for hard surface flooring and adhesives with criteria adopted from California for indoor air emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) with potential health effects, commonly known as California Section 01350.
- GreenGuard is a third-party certification testing for acceptable Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) limits in floorcovering, cleaning solutions and many other non-flooring related products. GreenGuard Gold is a higher certification tier with added criteria to ensure products are acceptable for use in schools and healthcare.
- Green Label Plus tests and third-party certifies carpet, carpet adhesive, and cushion for acceptable Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) levels according to California Section 01350 and additional product category-specific chemicals to limiting criteria.
- Cradle to Cradle is a third-party certification for any product, not just flooring. Products achieving this certification must meet many standards across five categories that include material health, material reutilization, renewable energy use, water stewardship, and social responsibility.
- Declare provides material ingredients transparency in an informative and easy to understand “nutrition” label. The ingredients are screened against the Living Building Challenge Red List of chemicals, and any Red List ingredients are highlighted in red.
- Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is an independently verified and registered report that discloses how a product affects the environment throughout its life cycle. An EPD does not indicate that the product is environmentally superior to alternatives; however, it does provide transparency that allows for comprehensive comparison.
- Health Product Declaration (HPD) provides a full disclosure of the potential chemicals of concern in products by comparing product ingredients to a wide variety of “hazard” lists published by government authorities and scientific associations.
Phase Out Old-School Cleaning Protocols
Some hard surface flooring products are certified green and made with natural, rapidly renewable, and chemical-free ingredients but require laborious and chemically laden maintenance protocols for durability and cleanability. Evaluating cleaning and maintenance documents in advance of making a selection can go a long way in preventing staff exposure to hazardous chemicals and taxing the facility’s cleaning budget and team. Look for instructions that use simple and sustainable cleaning methods, neutral cleaning solutions, and EPA-registered disinfectants; and avoid surfaces that require sealing, stripping, waxing or finishing.
Longer Life, Less Maintenance
Most flooring manufacturers recommend installing matting systems at all building entrances to prevent dirt, ice melt, moisture, and other substances from reaching and damaging interior surfaces. This helps floors stay cleaner and last longer while reducing maintenance.
A properly designed entrance system also facilitates healthy indoor air quality. Exterior pollutants such as pollen, pesticides, chemicals, oil, dirt, and other contaminants enter the building on the shoes of unsuspecting visitors and building occupants. By scraping and brushing away dust and contaminants and absorbing moisture effectively, an entrance system acts like a filter to stop the vast majority of external air pollutants at the door.
Selecting sustainability flooring is the right thing to do for the environment and can lead to healthier building occupants, higher quality indoor conditions, and improved resource preservation. Simplifying product selection makes it more straightforward to include as part of your sustainability strategy.
JoAnne Durette is Vice President of Marketing for Mats Inc., a family-owned business delivering quality commercial matting and flooring solutions since 1971.
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