Products: Shades of Green

By Erika Schnitzer, Associate EditorWith sustainable design quickly becoming the standard, manufacturers are turning to recycled content now more than ever. Those who have been doing so for years have upped the ante, utilizing materials in more innovative ways and employing higher percentages of recycled materials. “We’re finding consumers are becoming far more sophisticated about wanting healthy materials in their homes,” observes Robin Reigi, founder and president, Robin Reigi Inc., a New York-based sourcing, development, marketing and sales firm.Surfaces and carpets are just two examples of products that incorporate post-consumer materials. Some products, such as recycled glass tile, have even become an industry standard, notes Tim Button, partner, Stedila Design Inc., an interior design firm whose commissions include The Albanese Organization’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-rated Visionaire, Solaire and Verdesian. Other manufacturers are incorporating even more inventive materials, such as recycled blue jeans in insulation and glass bottles in countertops.”The standards have definitely gone up,” Button says. While he notes that some building materials have always been green by their nature, “the thing that’s different is looking at whole new products, like Plyboo (laminated bamboo plywood) and Kierie Board,” which is made from reclaimed sorghum straw. “It’s a beautiful material that would otherwise be thrown away or composted,” Button states, explaining that the finished material can be used for any application in place of plywood. While Button notes that “people are much more aware of what they touch, rather than the content in their building,” it is also crucial to consider those products—such as insulation—that are unseen by residents. To promote recycled-content products, the EPA’s (Environmental Protection Agency) Comprehensive Procurement Guideline (CPG) program designates products that are, or can be, made with recovered materials. Procuring agencies then must purchase products with the highest recovered material content level possible. The program includes eight product categories, including a large number of construction products such as cement, concrete, floor tiles and roofing.In addition, recycled-content products can contribute LEED credits with MR Credit 4-Recycled Content, MR Credit 5-Local/Regional Materials and MR Credit 6-Rapidly Renewable Materials. However, for developers looking to maximize their buildings’ sustainability, Reigi cautions that these recycled-content products may not always be the greenest option. Rather, she believes that “manufacturers will use [recycled content] as a crutch to claim environmental [friendliness] when there are things out there that would be more beneficial without being recycled,” Reigi says, citing bamboo as one such example.While it used to be that being green came with a higher price tag, both Reigi and Button believe this is no longer an excuse. “It’s leveling out in terms of cost,” says Reigi. “You’re not necessarily paying more for green products anymore.” Button agrees. “There is no additional cost by the time you get tax credits.” The Bazzèo kitchen [1] is made from 100 percent post-consumer waste paper, bound together with a non-toxic, petroleum-free resin made from the crushed shells of cashews. Available in Gunmetal Grey, Chocolate Brown, Grass Green, Indigo Blue and Obsidian Black, the kitchen is produced with recycled and regenerated wood, non-toxic laminates, aluminum and glass (…Made from 40 percent post-industrial recycled content, Schneller Inc.’s Veritas ResinArt panels [2] can be specified according to texture, interlayer, color and gauge. They are GreenGuard-certified and can be used to earn LEED credits in the Recycled Content, Indoor Air Quality, and Local/Regional Materials categories (…Duro Design cork flooring [3] is made of 100 percent post-industrial recycled content from wine-stopper production. Comprised of air-filled cells, cork absorbs sound and impact, and stays warm. The flooring is available in 54 colors and six patterns. It comes in either glue-down cork tiles or click-together floating floor planks (…GreenFiber Cocoon Insulation [4] is made from 85 percent recycled paper fiber, with the remaining 15 percent consisting of additives for fire and fungal resistance. The blow-in insulation, which offers a Class 1/A fire rating, can be applied over existing insulation ( comment, e-mail