sustainable materials & products

Environmental Release of Mercury from Broken Compact Fluorescent Lamps

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WARNING: Mercury vapor released from broken compact fluorescent light bulbs can exceed safe exposure levels!

One of the websites I visit frequently is Watts Up with That? – commentary on puzzling things in life, nature, science, weather, climate change, technology and recent news. The site is hosted by Anthony Watts, a former television meteorologist who spent 25 years on the air and also operates a weather technology and content business.

Perhaps it’s coincidence that I ran across his 06 July, 2011 article, Gee, ya think? Proof of what many have said for years, that provides his analysis of a study by Mary Ann Liebert reported in Environmental Engineering Science. Coincidence because I was recently challenged when I mentioned to several of my piers the potential health issues caused by mercury contained in Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs).

In summary, the study states:

However, the TCLP results do not fully reflect the potential hazards of CFLs because the CFLs continuously release Hg vapor once broken. The emission can last weeks even months and the total amount of Hg that can be released in vapor from new CFLs can often exceed 1.0 mg. Since vapor Hg can be readily inhaled by people, rapid removal of broken CFLs and sufficient ventilation of rooms by fresh air are critical to prevent people from potential harms. Effective packaging for preventing the breakage of CFLs and retaining the Hg vapor from broken CFLs is another way to reduce exposure to Hg in transportation, handling, and storage.  Continue Reading →

What’s in a Green Building Product Label?

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This recent article in Professional Remodeler, written by Michelle Desiderio, director of Green Building Programs, NAHB Research Center, provides an overview of the major green product certification programs for the home building industry. The following briefly outlines the various programs involved in green product certification.

What’s in a name?

In the residential construction industry, third parties test, certify or verify that a product meets the criteria of an established industry standard or code. For green product labeling specifically, third parties provide scientific expertise in testing, assessing and auditing a wide range of environmental attributes. While there are multiple legitimate third parties providing green product certifications within the construction industry, it would be impossible to be comprehensive in a brief article. The article provides a summary of some of the third-party product certifications that currently touch the broadest array or volume of building products, including who offers them and what they mean when you see them on products and materials.

ICC Evaluation Service Sustainable Attributes Verification and Evaluation
What it is: The ICC-ES SAVE Program provides independent verification of manufacturers’ claims about the sustainable attributes of their products.

Who runs it: The ICC-ES is a subsidiary of the International Code Council. ICC-ES is a non-profit company that evaluates building products, components, methods and materials for compliance with code.

How it works: ICC-ES provides verification in accordance with one or more of nine ICC-ES SAVE program guidelines.

NAHB Research Center Green Approved Products
What it is: Green Approved Products have been pre-approved by the NAHB Research Center as being eligible for specific points in the ICC-700 National Green Building Standard. The NGBS is the first green rating system to be approved as an ANSI consensus standard. Continue Reading →

California’s Carpet Stewardship Program

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From the USGBC California Regional Chapter:

Carpet alone is 3.2% of what is disposed of in California, according to the 2008 Statewide Waste Characterization Study. EPA ran the numbers on green house gas emissions and concluded for California that carpet is #4 in having the most GHG impact of any product after lumber, mixed paper, and cardboard. Most carpet is made from petroleum based products like nylon, and can be recycled indefinitely.

For all these reasons and the fact that existing carpet recyclers were laying off employees, in 2010 California passed a law, AB 2398, to increase landfill diversion and recycling of post-consumer carpet generated in California. The law requires all carpet manufacturers to add a stewardship assessment fee of $0.05/square yard onto all carpet sold in the state as of July 1, 2011.

Funds from this assessment fee will be used to increase carpet reuse and recycling, improve the recyclability of carpet, and, most importantly, grow the market for secondary products made from post-consumer carpet.

The Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) estimates that over 400 million pounds of carpet are discarded in California every year. This legislation was supported by many stakeholders – from local governments and entrepreneurs to carpet mills — because it will create jobs, save valuable resources, and reduce the need for more landfills and the associated costs to society.

The law requires all manufacturers, importers, distributors, wholesalers and retailers who sell carpet into California to participate, and there is a penalty for non-compliance.

For additional information on this from the USGBC California Regional Chapter,  follow me »

For information on the California Carpet Stewardship Program from the CalRecycle website,  follow me »

For information on the Carpet America Recovery Effort and AB2398 – California Carpet Stewardship Bill,  follow me »

A Product Is Only as Sustainable as the Sum of Its Parts

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Selecting sustainable cabinetry requires careful examination of multiple components.

One of those little inconvienences with documenting credits is tracking installed materials where their presence can involve both the Materials & Resources and Indoor Environmental Quality categories. This can become a tedious exercise when the material is acutally a component consisting of several materials, as is the case with cabinetry and millwork.

Katy Tomasulo has a good article on ebuild,     Continue Reading →