July 12, 2013

Werner Braun: Green Label Plus is a plus

— Who hasn’t had the experience of getting into a friend’s shiny new vehicle and commented on that unmistakable “new car” smell?

It’s an odor we’ve come to associate with cars rolling off the assembly line. But cars aren’t the only products that can trigger an immediate olfactory response. Newly manufactured carpet often generates a “new carpet” smell as well.

And while it’s not an unpleasant odor, it’s one that’s gotten a bad rap over time. That odor comes from a compound known as 4PCH. While innocuous and in virtually negligible amounts within the carpet, 4PCH emits an odor that the human nose detects readily. And this harmless odor is what actually sparked our creation of the Green Label Plus certification program.

The back story is that more than 20 years ago there was a concern among many consumers that that strong odor meant that there was a large amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the carpet, resulting in a fear that those VOCs would prove harmful to individuals’ health.

So the Carpet and Rug Institute introduced its Green Label certification program to test for VOCs and to certify those products whose emissions tested well below acceptable levels.

We’ve never been in the business of testing the products ourselves. We serve as the administrators of the program who monitor the process and give our stamp of approval to those companies whose products comply with national — and now even international — standards.

Of course, not all carpet manufacturers have their products tested, and of course those that do not go through the testing process do not earn Green Label Plus certification. But, since the five or six largest carpet manufacturers offer 100 percent of their products with the Green Label Plus label on them, it’s actually harder to find a carpet that is not Green Label Plus than one that is.  

And, for those who participate, we’re involved all along the way.

As soon as a product to be tested comes off the assembly line, so to speak, we bag samples of it and ship it to one of the recognized independent testing laboratories that analyze our products. For 14 days, that sample is evaluated to determine its level of emissions of specific VOCs via a chemical analysis.

A report is issued, and if the results show that the product is a low emitter, it earns our Green Label Plus certification.

For CRI, being able to recommend or endorse certain products has been a good thing. It’s good for consumers who can rest assured that a Green Label Plus certified carpet or adhesive has met rigorous testing standards and has been deemed safe for use in their homes.

It all contributes to having good indoor air quality (IAQ), which is an important environmental consideration for all of us, as most people spend about 90 percent of their time indoors.

So consumers who purchase Green Label Plus products can rest assured that they are purchasing the lowest emitting carpet, adhesive and cushion products on the market.

The program was also designed with architects, builders, specifiers and facility managers in mind who need assurances that carpet and adhesive products that they use meet the most stringent criteria for low chemical emissions.

We believe in doing what’s right when it comes to the environment, indoor air quality and addressing consumers’ concerns, which is why creating the Green Label and Green Label Plus programs was the right thing to do at the right time.

And we’re very proud of the fact that through the years the Green Label and Green Label Plus programs have been continuously updated and modernized to reflect the most recent scientific developments and study.

We’re now celebrating a milestone of sorts. Over the past few years, we have begun certifying products on all continents and now have a presence in about 20 countries. And all of this began as a voluntary effort to help manufacturers and consumers “do the right thing” — produce and purchase products that are kind to the environment.

If you’re in the market for carpet or related products, make sure you look for the CRI Green Label Plus logo as proof that the product has been tested and certified by an independent laboratory and has met stringent criteria for low admissions.

We know you’ll be glad you did.

Werner Braun is president of the Dalton-based Carpet and Rug Institute.