Hot Tips: Product Safety

How to Avoid 'Greenwashed' Products

Have you ever thought about what toxic materials might be lurking in your classroom walls, floors and furniture? Are you familiar with the Red List, the “worst in class” materials, chemicals and elements known to pose serious risks to human health and the greater ecosystem? If not, you might be surprised that Red List chemicals are commonly used in building products.

The good news is that some companies are fully committed to product disclosure, and believe that the process will encourage the development of more innovative green building products that will result in healthier indoor environments. After all, you want to make the right decisions for the health of your students when designing and constructing buildings by using ecologically sound products.

But with the lack of verifiable product information and all the greenwashing in the marketplace, how can you trust manufacturers?

The Living Building Challenge ( has the world’s most aspirational green building standard and has incorporated transparency though its Declare program ( You can use the Declare product database and label to find building products that have declared their ingredients, source and manufacturing locations. We recommend asking your suppliers to provide Declare labels, which serve as a clear, elegant and informative “nutrition label” for building products. Declare labels fill the information gap by answering three simple questions: Where does a product come from? What is it made of? And where does it go at the end of its life?

A number of companies have embraced third-party certifications, such as Declare, to help their customers make conscious, informed decisions.

Mohawk Group currently has Declare labels for 489 Red List-free products in the marketplace. All certifications are available on and

This article originally appeared in the issue of .

About the Author

Lauri Watnee is the director of Education Segmentation at Mohawk Group.