We hear the words “going green” on a regular basis, but what does it mean to the companies making the products? Helping the environment and reducing waste are some of the challenges which companies face. They have to change not only what they make and how they make it; to meet certain green building requirements, they also have to consider where they are located, how to recycle and reuse the products and reduce any potential negative impacts on the environment.

We spoke with two companies for a snapshot of the industry’s role of protecting the environment while also creating profitable, durable products for the installation community. For MAPEI, similar to other manufacturers in the industry, challenges abound to creating a workable product while using fewer chemicals compounds. “MAPEI is in the chemical compounding business and there is no real way we know of to bond tile and adhere flooring without the use of some chemically compounded product,” said Jeff Johnson, Business Marketing Manager for Floor Covering Installation Systems at MAPEI.

“In order for MAPEI to be ‘green’ we have to do whatever we can to reduce any negative impact on the environment by using raw materials that are strategically located near our factories, reduce or eliminate any waste byproducts generated during the manufacturing process, and recycle materials in-house wherever possible,” he explained.


Adhesives and VOCs

Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are another major consideration for adhesive and grout manufacturers, according to Bronwyn Miller, R&D Manager for H.B. Fuller Construction Products. “VOCs are compounds that vaporize rapidly, often resulting in a very strong odor. Therefore, VOCs can affect indoor air quality and contribute to smog formation in outdoor air,” Miller noted.

“Formulating low-VOC products can be challenging as volatile organic content will affect the film-forming properties of polymer dispersions,” Miller added. This change can also affect the freeze/thaw stability of the products, which could potentially cause the grout, mortar or adhesive to not work properly. Finding the correct balance can be a challenge.

H.B. Fuller looks to reduce environmental impact by reducing packaging, chemicals, VOCs in products, choosing less hazardous products and recycling used materials. MAPEI is also using modern technologies to provide green products to the marketplace.


Challenges to making green products

When it comes to creating green grouts and adhesives the chemical process usually has to be changed. While offering many advantages, adding recycled content often requires these types of changes. “Some recycled materials have a very fine particle size, requiring a formula adjustment to accommodate the change in product consistency,” Miller said.

From a corporate standpoint, one of the biggest expenses may be location. “The main challenge in remaining green from a corporate standpoint is the capital expenditure required to place our manufacturing facilities near raw material sources. As you can imagine this is a very big and expensive challenge,” Johnson stated.


Advantages to going green

Choosing green products can mean a healthier, safer environment from the people who create the products to the installers working with the products and the end-users who will be living long-term with the products.

“‘Traditional’ installation materials may have been loaded with solvents and toxic pigmentation systems. The advantages of selecting ‘green’ products is that they do help reduce negative impact on the environment by reducing demand on fossil fuels and other natural resources,” Johnson said.

MAPEI is among the many companies that designate green products through their packaging. “Contractors can look for MAPEI’s Green Innovation logo on our packaging, which represents products that are USGBC Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-compliant, helping to contribute valuable points toward LEED-certified projects,” added Brian Pistulka, Business Manager for Tile & Stone Installation Systems at MAPEI.

Choosing to go green can also lead to “improved energy efficiencies, improved waste management, lower water cost, less return calls for maintenance/repairs and decreased material cost due to more efficient raw materials. These are all examples of ways green products provide opportunities to save money,” Miller said.


What to look for

When choosing green products, always look for information about low emissions or low environmental impacts on the packaging. “Logos such as CRI Green Label Plus, GreenGuard and FloorScore all provide first-glance validation to the contractor that they are using a ‘green’ product,” said Johnson. “Additionally, many companies are beginning to include raw material content on labels and data sheets that contribute to a product’s ‘green’ characteristics.”

Also look for products that can contribute LEED points to a project and boost the overall LEED score. While great for projects that require LEED certification, it is also a good yardstick to help measure a product’s green content, according to Miller. “Typically the higher the LEED points a product contributes to a project, the more positive green impact it will have.”