Not Green Enough: Six Products GreenSpec Rejected and Why
There are plenty of products that simply aren't efficient, low-emitting, or sustainable. but here are some products that have a lot going for them, but also have some serious flaws.
Editor's note: Since the original posting of this blog, we have revised our opinion of Eleek, and written more about its cast aluminum hardware, leading us to remove mention of it from this post. We apologize to Eleek and its owners for misunderstanding their offerings. We'll also be taking a second look at IdeaPaint, which is now available from CRE-8 in a lower-VOC version.
At GreenSpec, we most often like to talk about our 2,200-plus listings of exemplary green products--listings from over 1,600 companies representing thousands of individual products. For ten years we have annually highlighted our Top-10 products of the year, for example.
Today we look at six products we rejected from GreenSpec, and why. There are plenty of products that simply aren't efficient, low-emitting, or otherwise sustainable enough for our standards, but here we've selected some products that have a lot going for them, but also have some serious flaws.
We hope that pointing out flaws can lead to product and industry change. EcoDomo's recycled leather tiles for flooring and walls are made from recycled leather scraps mixed with natural rubber and a binder made from Acacia bark. We originally rejected the tiles in 2006 because of concerns about chromium, a toxic heavy metal used in leather tanning. EcoDomo took our concerns seriously, and now their tiles are chromium-free and listed in GreenSpec.
Solyndra Solar Panels
What it is: Solyndra's roof-mounted solar PV technology is based on a glass tube lined with thin-film copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS). The theory is light can hit the tubes at any angle and that the tubes capture light bouncing back off the roof to improve performance.
Why we rejected it: We hate to kick Solyndra while it's down--and its high-profile bankruptcy has earned Solyndra a lot of derision--but we had technical concerns about Solyndra a while back when we researched the product for GreenSpec. Solyndra wouldn't provide data backing up the captured light bouncing off the roof. Perhaps more damning to the company's fortunes, Solyndra took an inexpensive thin-film PV product and wrapped it in an expensive manufacturing process, with fragile tubes that were a challenge to transport. The company claimed low installation costs would make them more than competitive, but we saw it as a gimmick that didn't deserve to be included in GreenSpec.
Green Polyurethane from Nanotech Industries International, Inc.
What it is: Green Polyurethane from Nanotech Industries International, Inc. is a hybrid polyurethane that uses a proprietary combination of epoxy and polyurethane technologies that, according to the company, creates a surface that has better adhesion, three to four times the corrosion resistance, and 50% more chemical resistance than conventional polyurethanes. And it does so without solvents, VOCs, or the use of isocyanates.
Why we rejected it: After digging into the MSDS, we found that the product uses bisphenol-A (BPA), a main ingredient in epoxies. While GreenSpec encourages the development of isocyanate-free polyurethanes (we list isocyanate-free whey-protein polyurethanes for wood applications, for example), but we are not convinced that using epoxy is the best substitute. Few epoxy-based materials make it into GreenSpec due to the BPA concerns.
CRE-8 by IdeaPaint
What it is: CRE-8 is a water-based paint that transforms any surface into a dry erase board. Says the manufacturer: "Transform a child's bedroom or playroom into a place to explore and express their creativity and imagination. Paint a toy box and make it more entertaining than everything inside of it. IdeaPaint creates the perfect spot for the family to interact and keep up with each other's busy lives."
Why We Rejected It: The product's MSDS shows that CRE-8 is high-VOC, which is basis enough for concern. Beyond that, however, almost all dry erase markers are high-VOC, and a product that encourages kids to use them like toys just doesn't qualify as green. We'd feel great about it if it were reformulated and packaged with zero-VOC markers.
Retrofoam by Polymaster
What it is: RetroFoam is a three-part foam-in-place insulation that can be injected into the wall cavity for insulation retrofits.
Why we rejected it: With no MSDS displayed on Retrofoam's website, we needed to do some digging to find out more about RetroFoam's ingredients. Eventually, an April 1, 2011 entry on the company's blog revealed that RetroFoam is urea-formaldehyde foam insulation (remember UFFI from back in the 1970s?), a substance toxic enough to warrant rejection considering there are similar, formaldehyde-free insulation products available. We'd like to see Retrofoam upgrade to a formaldehyde-free product--and be far more transparent about their ingredients.
Footopia Foot Spa by Ashiyu
What it is: This 40" polyethylene bowl comes lined with river rocks, with a programmable heater and dual-speed pump for your foot-soaking experience. It comes with a respectable 10-year warranty, and everyone enjoys a good foot massage.
Why we rejected it: Foot spa: rhymes with "chutzpah." The product's GreenSpec submission suggested that compared to a standard 500- to 800-gallon hot tub, the Footopia is a "greener" option--but what isn't? It still uses plenty of water, electricity, treatment chemicals, and PVC plumbing, which do not make this a product we can recommend to our GreenSpec readers.
What it is: The company describes the light bulb as a direct replacement for a 65-watt incandescent light bulb that relies on "electron stimulated luminescence" (ESL). What attracted us to the product is that it's totally mercury-free and works in dimming circuits. It's supposed to consume 19.5 watts, have a power factor of 0.99, and produce 600 lumens.
Why we rejected it: We obtained a sample light bulb, and have been testing it in one of our editors' homes. In fact, he's typing this under its light right now. While the lack of mercury is great, the light bulb seems only slightly brighter than a few candles, and--worse--it flickers, at least in the dimming circuit it's on. I measured the electrical consumption at only 12 watts (lower than the specs), but the light output seemed far less than a 15-watt CFL I tested at the same time. And the power factor fluctuated, averaging only about 0.82. Hopefully, this is just an early-production-model problem and the performance will improve. But for now, it doesn't make the grade.
Most of the products we reject have potential: tweaked ingredients, lowered VOCs, or improved performance would make the difference between GreenSpec rejection and making the cut. As in the case of EcoDomo's leather tiles, these are decisions in sourcing and manufacturing that can make a product stand out in the market.
Posted by Tristan Roberts on February 7, 2012
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