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Guide to Green & Healthy Product Labeling

With so many labels out there, how do you really know what’s actually green, sustainable, organic or just plain safe to put in your home?

Rusty Stout_JS2 Partners Healthy Home Builder
Only the best materials for Baby Connor's house!

Demand for natural and eco-friendly products has dramatically increased over the years, just take a look at the Whole Foods parking lot! Many brands are seeing the opportunity to enter the green game and for some – this means getting away with making vague, irrelevant, or downright false claims on product labels and websites.

Our 6 month old, Mr. Super Baby, is one of the many reasons why we build with only safe, non-toxic materials. Here's a quick crash course on some of the most common consumer product certifications.

Avoiding Flame Retardants

Rugs, couches, drapes, carpets, bedspreads, mattresses. The things we sleep on, babies play on and decorate our homes with have chemical fire retardants that are supposed to slow ignition time. These very chemicals that are supposed to help keep us safe are linked to neurodevelopmental issues in kids, endocrine problems and even cancer.

Here's the good news! Instead of sitting on antimony (heavy metal) and polybrominated dihenyl ethers (PBDEs), you do have a choice.

Family watching TV on upholstered couch


When buying upholstered furniture, a little due diligence can go a long way! Look for a

TB117-2013 label stating that the item does not contain flame retardants. It’s also a good idea to replace your existing upholstered furniture that has retardants with the label TB117 label.

USDA Certified Organic

Purchasing upholstery made from Certified Organic fabric is a great way to ensure you’re skipping out on anything nasty.

Responsible Wool Stadard Happy Sheep Lambs


OKEO-TEX is another trustworthy label to seek out. Their stringent testing protocols extend throughout the entire manufacturing process, where textile and leather products are screened for a number of harmful substances.


Foams with the CertiPUR-US label are made without formaldehyde, pthalates or flame retardants, and are very low VOC (less than 0.5 parts per million (PPM)).

Responsible Wool Standard

Wool products are naturally fire retardant and completely sustainable. After all, the sheep enjoy getting their hair cut! This standard is about the sheep’s welfare and best interest, too.


Deceptive misleading label

Labeling involves a certification process to give the label credibility. The organizations that oversee these processes make their money through charging manufacturers a pretty penny to wear their seal of approval.

Unfortunately, there are some certifications intended to make you feel all warm and cozy on the inside but in reality they don’t mean anything at all.

What does Cradle to Cradle mean?

This one is especially concerning to me, given Cradle to Cradle insinuates that the product must be as safe as it gets if it’s good for babies.

C to C is a consumer goods certification which assesses social and environmental performance in addition to material health. While the social and sustainable part may be true, I couldn’t be further from impressed on their guidelines for acceptable amounts of substances that pose risk to human and animal health.

Cradle to Cradle label

Here are a few substances which Cradle to Cradle allows for in it’s certified products, (excluding clothing):

- coal tar & creosote

- formaldehyde

- benzene & toluene

- arsenic, mercury, nickel, antimony & lead


- the flame retardant PBDE

- PFOA (Teflon)

What does Green Guard Certified mean?

If only I had a dollar for every time a homeowner or supplier said, “…but it’s Green Guard Certified!

This is UL’s certification which aims to demonstrate a commitment to health and wellness, in terms of specific furnishings, building materials and mattresses.

Guide to Green Healthy Product Labels

Green Guard allows for:

- 500 μg/m3 total VOCs per item (from multiple ingredient sources in a single product)

- 9 parts per billion of formaldehyde

Green Guard Gold allows for:

- 220 μg/m3 total VOCs per item (from multiple ingredient sources in a single product)

- 61.3 parts per billion of formaldehyde

As you can see, Green Guard Gold is the stricter certification, designed for products to be deemed safe for use in schools and healthcare facilities... My main issue is that they still allow for some very small amounts of formaldehyde though.

FACT - {Formaldehyde is among the most widely used VOC producing chemicals in manufacturing construction materials and home furnishings. This is due to it's ability to speed up the curing process. Faster means cheaper and quicker for both materials manufacturers and builders alike.}

As healthy home builders, we choose to avoid formaldehyde like its the plague, as it is also among the most sensitizing and irritating chemicals to be found inside of a home. JS2P doesn't believe in sacrificing health in the name of quicker turnarounds. Each JS2 Partners home is strategically designed to produce next to no formaldehyde emissions.

So when backed into a corner with limited options, we will use the Green Guard Gold certification as a guide and then devise a way to seal in the remaining formaldehyde.

Feeling Confident

... Out of all the labels discussed above, Green Guard seems to have the most rigid standards regarding the most common VOC's found in homes. While this certification does account for certain VOC emissions, do keep in mind that Green Guard does not take into account phthalates, biocides nor flame retardants. This is why it's important to look at multiple certification labels when making purchasing decisions.

So if you're feeling confident about using the above labels as a guide, we're not done just yet!

It All Adds Up!

When Things Arent Adding Up Start Subtracting

The single most important take away from this post is to think in terms of the pieces... For example, a typical bedroom has a bed frame, 2 side tables, dresser, ceiling fan, mattress, mirror, sheets, pillows, comforter, some artwork hanging on the walls and probably a few other fun things.

Now factor in the sheet rock, the flooring, the paint on the walls and ceilings, the glues and lacquers used on all of your furnishings, insulation behind the walls, the adhesives used to glue down your floors, the components in your HVAC ducting, etc.

So what if all of these items are Green Guard Gold certified? Let’s do the math…. 220 μg/m3 total VOC's per item, multiplied by the amount of items in your bedroom…. Yup, this adds up quickly to thousands upon thousands of VOC’s being released into your own sleeping sanctuary.

Taking into account that homes are sealed up tighter than ever to meet energy code requirements, one can imagine that it doesn’t take long for VOC’s to become more and more concentrated in your home’s air as they continually offgas.

It’s really no wonder the percentage of cases for chronic disease, allergies and cancers are increasing every year.

Let's Work Together to Make Building Better

JS2 Partners Healthy Home Builder Inspiring Better Better Building Practices

There is no single silver bullet when it comes to truth in product labeling.

Rule #1, Zero Pollutants is best!

Interestingly enough, there is a laundry list of harmful chemicals that are not regulated nor considered VOC's, such as ammonia and acetone, which are readily used in products labeled zero VOC.

To reword what I just said above, it's important to realize that there are quite a few products that make claims to be zero VOC, but -- they actually still contain harmful emissions. So at the end of the day, it's up to you to do your homework by researching products, contacting manufacturers directly or by asking your builder/decorator to do the research on your behalf.

JS2 Partners has spent years doing this very research in order to develop construction protocols that utilize only zero and ultra low VOC products and methods. From the screws that go in your drywall to the finishes on your fixtures, we take pride in providing our homeowner clients with this unmatched level of confidence in clean indoor living.

Bottom line…. Knowledge is power.

Be sure to do your research on materials before inviting them into your home!


Interested in partnering with JS2 Partners on your next home project or hiring us to design and build your home? Drop us a line!

JS2 Partners specializes in using all non-toxic building materials and construction methods in our new construction, renovation and interior decorating projects. The experts at JS2 Partners are premier custom home builders based in Central Texas. JS2P is a recognized industry leader in healthy building practices, and offers consulting services on projects across the U.S.


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