What Is GREENGUARD Gold Certified and Why is it Important?

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What are your main checklist items when shopping for new furniture, mattresses, and other household items?

Cost? Size? Color? Style?

What about the level of harmful chemicals the item will bring with it into your home? That surely has to be right at the top…right?

I’ve covered over 200 eco-certifications here, and one of the best is GREENGUARD Gold.

You might have already heard of this label before (I’ve mentioned it before in many articles). But, what is GREENGUARD Gold Certified and why does it matter?

It’s one of the highest levels of environmental certification available and is awarded to products that meet the most stringent standards for indoor air quality.

Put simply, it helps you quickly identify products that won’t fill your home with harmful chemicals.

In this article, I’ll discuss what GREENGUARD Gold is, how it works, and why it’s such an important certification for consumers and businesses.

I’ll also look at some of the products that might carry the GREENGUARD Gold seal of approval, who can qualify for it, and what the benefits are. As well as reveal some of the criticism that this certification has faced in the past.

Why We Need Certifications Like GREENGUARD Gold

benefits of greenguard gold certifications

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that the air inside our homes can be up to five times more polluted than the air outside.

That’s pretty concerning, especially considering how much time we spend indoors (approximately 95%, according to the EPA).

The main culprits of indoor pollution are VOCs (volatile organic compounds). VOCs are carbon-based chemicals that break down into gas form and disperse into the air.

VOCs are most common in cleaning products, paint, and building materials. However, many other everyday household items (home furnishings, sleep surfaces, living room suites, etc.) can also release harmful chemicals into the air.

As discussed in my How Long Does It Take For Furniture To Off-Gas article, VOCs and SVOCs (semi-volatile organic compounds) can lead to a wide range of health issues, such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Infertility
  • Attention deficit disorder (ADD)
  • Headaches
  • Eye irritation
  • Throat irritation
  • Nose irritation
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Cancer
  • Asthma
  • Central nervous system Damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Liver damage
  • Brain fog (lack of concentration)

That’s why it’s essential to be aware of products' certifications before bringing them into your home.

Doing your research can help create a healthy indoor environment for yourself and your family.

So, what is GREENGUARD Gold? Let’s take a closer look…

GREENGUARD Gold: Everything You Need To Know

Overview

GREENGUARD Gold is an environmental certification developed by the UL (Underwriters Laboratories). It’s designed to help reduce indoor air pollution and improve the quality of the air that we breathe.

It started in 2005 as the GREENGUARD Children and Schools Certification Program, focusing on certifying products for daycares, schools, and healthcare facilities.

The name was changed to GREENGUARD Gold In 2011, and the scope broadened to include the following:

  • Building materials, furniture, and furnishings
  • Electronic equipment
  • Cleaning and maintenance products
  • Medical devices for breathing gas pathways

To be certified, products must meet stringent standards for chemical emissions. These standards are some of the toughest in the world and are based on extensive scientific research.

Only products that meet the criteria for GREENGUARD Gold certification can display the logo on their packaging or website. This makes it easy for consumers to identify low-emitting products that are safe for indoor use.

GREENGUARD Gold certification is awarded on a pass/fail basis. Products that meet the standards “Pass”, while those that don’t make the grade “Fail”.

Products carrying the certification are listed on the UL SPOT database. This is an online database that consumers can use to search for products that meet specific criteria.

GREENGUARD Certification Criteria

Products that want to be GREENGUARD Gold certified must undergo extensive third-party laboratory testing.

The products are subjected to a series of tests that measure their emissions of VOCs (volatile organic compounds). These tests simulate real-world conditions, such as temperature and humidity.

GREENGUARD Gold certified products must meet strict emission limits for VOCs. UL set these limits based on extensive scientific research.

Once a product has been certified, the manufacturer can display the GREENGUARD Gold logo on their packaging or website.

GREENGUARD Vs. GREENGUARD Gold

The UL GREENGUARD certification program comes in two levels, GREENGUARD and GREENGUARD Gold. So, what’s the difference between the two?

Both test for over 10,000 chemicals and VOC emissions. The main difference is in the emission limits that products must meet.

The Gold certification has stricter emission limits than the standard GREENGUARD certification:

VOC Emission Limits

  • GREENGUARD Gold: 220 μg/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter of air) total VOC
  • GREENGUARD: 500 μg/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter of air) total VOC

Formaldehyde Limit

  • GREENGUARD Gold: 7.3 ppb (parts per billion)
  • GREENGUARD: 50 ppb (parts per billion)

Benefits Of GREENGUARD Gold Certifications

There are many consumer benefits of certification, including:

  • Improved indoor air quality
  • Reduced exposure to harmful chemicals
  • Peace of mind that products are safe for indoor use

GREENGUARD Gold certification is also good for manufacturers. It shows that they are committed to producing products that are safe for indoor use and that they are willing to invest in the necessary testing and certification.

This can help to give manufacturers a competitive edge as more and more consumers become aware of the importance of reducing indoor pollutants.

Downsides Of GREENGUARD Gold

One of the main downsides is the cost. The certification process is expensive and can often only be afforded by larger manufacturers.

Many small businesses and start-ups cannot get their products certified.

Another downside is that the certification only applies to indoor products. Many outdoor products, such as building materials and patio furniture, cannot be certified.

Finally, the fact that GREENGUARD Gold is a pass/fail certification is seen by some as a significant downside.

Yes, it’s great to know that your new bed base, for example, is certified by GREENGUARD and the level of VOC is less than 220 μg/m3. However, it would be even better to know the exact VOC level.

Some manufacturers will tell you the exact VOC levels if you contact them, but it’s not something they have to declare if they don’t want to.

General Tips For Keeping Indoor VOC Levels Low

There are some general things you can do to reduce your exposure to VOCs and other indoor pollutants:

    • Natural Ventilation: Open doors and windows as often as possible to let in clear outdoor air. This will help to get rid of any harmful chemicals that have built up indoors.
    • Avoid Harsh Cleaning Products: Use eco-friendly cleaning products containing natural and non-toxic ingredients.
    • Choose Low VOC Building Materials: When renovating or building, choose materials that have low VOC emissions, such as these wall paints, for example.
    • Indoor Plants: Filling your home with indoor plants helps reduce indoor air pollution. Remember to use coffee grounds to keep the plants looking their best.
  • Kitchen Exhaust Fan: When cleaning, in addition to opening doors and windows, turn on the exhaust fan over your stove to help expel additional VOCs.
  • Air Purifier: If you can’t open your windows, use an air purifier with filters to improve indoor air quality.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does GREENGUARD Test For Phthalates?

No, the standard GREENGUARD certification does not test for Phthalates. However, GREENGUARD Gold does.

How Does Floorscore Compare To GREENGUARD?

Floorscore has the same VOC limit as GREENGUARD (500 μg/m3).

Should My Crib Be GREENGUARD Gold Certified?

Infants are particularly susceptible to chemical exposure and the effects of breathing in VOCs.

So, if you want the highest assurance that your crib is low in VOCs and you can afford it, then yes, it should be GREENGUARD Gold certified.

What Is The Difference Between GREENGUARD Certified And LEED?

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a green building rating system, while GREENGUARD certified is an environmental certification.

LEED looks at the whole building, while GREENGUARD specifically looks at VOCs and chemicals in products within the home.

The Final Word

The GREENGUARD Gold certification is one of the most reputable in the market.

It ensures you’ll experience low chemical emissions but doesn’t necessarily guarantee 100% clean air (even GREENGUARD certified products can emit some level of chemicals).

Whatever you buy (GREENGUARD Gold Certified or not), It’s always best to unpack outside and allow off-gassing to occur for as long as possible before moving the item into your home.

I’ve covered off-gassing in further detail in the following articles:

Other best practices, such as getting as much fresh air into your home as possible and keeping indoor plants, also help reduce VOC chemical exposure.

So, there you have it…everything you need to know about this well-known eco-certification.

If you’re looking for low-emitting products that are safe for indoor use, be sure to look for the GREENGUARD Gold logo.

And if you want to be sure that you’re looking at the most up-to-date information, use the UL SPOT database.

Get In Touch

Are you concerned about VOC chemical exposure in your home? Are you willing to spend more on a GREENGUARD Gold certified product with lower chemical emissions?

What was the last product you bought that carried the GREENGUARD certification? Drop me a line and let me know.

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James is a senior editor at The Roundup and has been in journalism for over 10 years. He was born in the UK but raised in Florida, where he currently lives with his wife and two daughters. James is passionate about sustainable living and environmental issues which are reflected by his work as an editor of TheRoundup.org.
James Miller
James is a senior editor at The Roundup and has been in journalism for over 10 years. He was born in the UK but raised in Florida, where he currently lives with his wife and two daughters. James is passionate about sustainable living and environmental issues which are reflected by his work as an editor of TheRoundup.org.

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