I’ve been highly critical of “greenwashing” in this space where companies make environmental claims for their products that are often half-baked. I came across an effort today by Herman Miller, however, that is very impressive. Design engineers at the Michigan office furniture manufacturer have adopted cradle-to-cradle, a design protocol that advocates the elimination of waste by recycling a material or product into a new or similar product at the end of its intended life, rather than disposing of it. There are three fundamental components: 1) eliminate hazardous material chemistries, 2) design for disassembly, and 3) use recycled content to the extent possible. Some materials on the Herman Miller “hit” list are: formaldehyde-based particleboard, fiberglass, antimony oxides, PVC, some metal finishes, halogens and fluorochemicals. Wow. In some cases, Herman Miller is actively lobbying producers to make changes. The company has a great environmental glossary on its Web site.
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