The Green Home eco-label project, described in issue #048, requires in-depth analysis of materials and processes used in the Tuscan furniture industry. To accomplish this, the project applies Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methods, which generates a large inventory of environmental information on each product submitted for evaluation.
The collected data is assembled with Simapro 5 and analyzed with Eco-indicator 99. The software determines the amount of damage to air, water and soil caused by a component's production and/or machining processes and assigns an "ecological impact" value to it.
The project experts determined the following three areas of "damage" to the environment, each with a specific level of impact:
Damage to human health - 50%
Determined by the number of years of illness or deaths caused by the environmental effect
Damage to the eco-system - 33%
Determined by the threat of species extinction
Damage to mineral/fossil resources - 17%
Determined by the amount of energy required to extract
The chart shows the results of environmental assessment for some common furniture materials. Eco-system damage  (a relatively rare occurrence in practice) was assigned a high value (33%) for obvious reasons - a species cannot be recreated once lost. Green Home determined most damage occurs in groups  and . Note: Because of transportation distances North American wood species receive a higher damage rating than European species.
Ecological impact of 1kg sample
The data in the chart uses a standard measurement of 1 kg of material. A similar method for comparing "apples with apples" was needed to compare different items of furniture, as weight would be inappropriate. The developed standards are as follows:
per number of seats
per linear metre
per cubic metre
per square metre
per number of sleepers
The complex LCA analysis (of which furniturelink has provided only a few examples) results in a final tally of all the ecological impact values. Products with less than 600 impact values receive an "A" rating; those with less than 200 receive the highest "AA" rating. Companies granted the "AA" rating and which have certification from other bodies, such as FSC and ISO 14001, can declare an "AA+" rating.
In the final analysis, only consumers making informed decisions can safeguard our environment. With its simplified A, AA, AA+ ratings, the Green Home label allows consumers to gauge the green of their purchases.
© furniturelink 2001 (text and images)