If you are in the commercial interiors business the question is asked regularly about LEED carpet and eco friendly manufacturing and what the differences are between products and processes. This can be a very challenging question to research because there are many schools of thought on this and a diversity of manufacturing systems using various raw and recycled materials can all be called LEED carpets.
We should first note that LEED carpets is a term that really means materials that can earn LEED credits and those that are environmentally friendly as there really is no such thing as a LEED carpet. Architects and designers can select products that may earn LEED points toward satisfying the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) LEED® Green Building Rating System™. Points may be earned in the materials and resources section for the recycled content credit 4.2 and 4.2 as well as the local and regional materials points. This has to do with products manufactured within a 500 mile distance to the ship to and installation site.
Under the LEED Indoor Environmental Quality, points may be given for Low Emitting Materials Credit 4.3 and people thinking beyond the LEED carpet ideology and deeper into the issue of what is really green carpet would look for products that are installed using environmentally friendly, low off gassing adhesives as well as peel and stick systems. Some manufacturers can help with an innovation point for a variety of reasons which should be requested by each manufacturer when specifying a project to see if there is anything that may qualify but it should always be remembered that the term LEED carpet is really just a phrase designed to find eco friendly green carpets.
Another thing to review is if a material meets the NSF 140 standards. NFS 140 is the first multi-attribute American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard for environmentally preferable building materials in the construction industry. The industry group developed this standard to Increase the economic value of sustainable carpet throughout the supply chain as well as provide information to help specifiers sort out information on sustainable attributes of LEED carpet.
While the commercial carpet industry has lead the way for eco friendly manufacturing and LEED carpet specifications there is still a lot of cleaning up that needs to be done in terms of marketing. One way to level the playing field would be for all manufacturers to adhere to the Federal Trade Commissions marketing guidelines that require a clear set of rules for the marketing of environmental claims. This would stop some of the worst greenwashing that currently permeates the industry when it comes to LEED carpets and eco friendly manufacturing claims. It would also even things up if all manufacturers used the same third party certification company and stays far away from using a certification company or methodology that has high profile consultants who are on or who have ever been on the payroll as this certainly could be seen as a conflict of interest.
Speaking of eco friendly manufacturing it should be noted that eco friendly manufacturing exists using all kinds of materials to include PVC and non PVC substances as well as processes that include a host of other compounds. Manufacturers that are ISO 14001 certified also should be given a special consideration due to the diligence and scrutiny that these manufacturers undergo throughout the process of validation.
One other note of clarification regarding LEED carpet is the term cradle to cradle. Cradle to cradle is really a term that means a manufacturer is responsible for the products they make from creation to the end of their useful life and that they have the facilities and ability to recycle the product back into itself again infinitely. This term is not owned by any one manufacturer but by those that can deliver on this promise and prove it through third party certification by a truly independent company when meeting FTC guidelines. Hopefully this helps when looking at LEED carpets and trying to better understand eco friendly manufacturing.