This guide shows which global eco-labels and schemes meet typical good practice environmental performance levels for use of timber, timber products, paints/adhesives/VOCs, particle boards and soft furnishings/carpets/curtains, and general products, etc.

If a material product is registered in a scheme, you can expect good levels of environmental performance for applications with ticks in the box – see table below.

Here are some tips for selecting materials with good environmental credentials:

  • If possible, select products that use third-party verification labels/certification, recycled content, environmental product declarations etc. to ascertain sustainability credentials.
  • Consider this for any wood panels, joinery, timber structures and flooring, furniture, particle boards, paper products, textile and laminated floor coverings, wall coverings, furniture and soft furnishings and ceiling tiles.
  • Timber is usually an easier one to target.  For example, you can specify 100% timber to be either reclaimed, recycled or, when new, to be supplied with a chain of custody certificate from one of the following forest certification schemes only: FSC, PEFC, SFI, CSA.
  • If possible avoid the use of any products containing PVC.  Where PVC is intended to be used, it should be free from Phthalate and Cadmium, and contain post-consumer recycled content and achieve 100% recyclable status (i.e. designed for deconstruction to enable recyclability), or demonstrate that it is a more favorable product than alternatives through, for example a Life Cycle Analysis; a scheme such as the BRE Green Guide to Specification or Green Book Live database can be used to demonstrate a good rating in life cycle impact terms.
  • Avoiding the use of virgin plastic products and packaging may be achieved by sourcing sustainable natural materials as an alternative to using plastics or sourcing plastics with a high recycled content that are 100% recyclable (i.e. designed for deconstruction to enable recyclability).
  • Look for paints, wall coverings, adhesives and materials with low or zero VOC emissions (identified by a certified low VOC emissions label)
  • Remember to check formaldehyde content of furnishing, carpets, fabric seating and textile wall coverings to ensure they are E0 or E1.
  • There is a global push to prioritize non-HFC refrigerants with low global warming potential.  Consider all available technical features and specifications employed to minimize the use of HFC refrigerants in fit-outs, including considering other options, such as CO2 systems, if available and practical. 
  • For justification for the material selection not meeting certain environmental requirements,  make reference of the reasons for the product used (e.g. based on H&S, hygiene requirements or other ethical reasons) and demonstrate that a market review of alternative products has been carried out, as appropriate.

Written by Beverley Lister


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