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Green Product Testing for Standards and Compliance

Green product labeling and testing has become confusing with a plethora of programs and standards. It's time to tame the beast with coordinated strategies.

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I received a call from a city leader who was researching how to reduce some of the confusion in the marketplace about whether a product is "green" or not. After discussing several of the green product certification programs and approaches on the market such as AQMD, ISO, Energy Star and a successful LED testing program, we tossed around what would make a good system for both the innovating company and the chain of stakeholders.

Green Product Testing and Certification System

green product testing process

This "solution" chart is based on the input I've received from readers who are from both industry and government, as well as observations about how green certifications are sprouting.

ONE Companies innovate, design and manufacture a "green" product

TWO Trade Associations and Government establish sector-specific standards that meet government (ie: EPA) and marketplace standards (ie: ISO)

THREE Testing labs (private and college) test these products for meeting applicable standards and compliance regulations. Labs in colleges provide environmental and design/engineering students with practical green testing experience. And keep costs affordable for businesses.

FOUR City, county, state and federal governments provide commercialization purchases of top quality, lab certified products to prime the marketplace pump and reduce early prices to make rapid adoption possible.

Many of the companies who are innovating greener products are small companies. And with this economy, most companies are strapped for funding to innovate and launch products. But small companies, in particular, find it difficult to tap into established testing procedures such as state EPA programs, AQMD, and international standards organizations that have a major impact on international trade such as the ISO - International Standards Organization.

There are sectors of our communities that are already in place that could be brought together to benefit the rapid development and commercialization of greener products with green certfication. By pulling established entities together in a consortium for commercialization, design education, testing, standards development and compliance; effectiveness and cost reduction for rapid deployment can be woven together.

There are examples of this product standards testing process having worked, such as the California Department of Transportation that developed lab testing for LED lights to be deployed as traffic signal lights in cities and counties across the state. They helped test products, set standards, and then bought significant early quantities to reduce the price for open market products. They system worked.

A slight modification to this successful system would be to establish testing labs at colleges, community colleges and universities that have environmental and product design/engineering programs. By giving student work-study employees training in testing products, we would enhance the workforce's awareness of testing procedures at the same time we help companies bring greener products to market that meet industry, state and federal compliance standards.

By working with systems already in place, we can minimize costs and maximize public involvement in a rapid deployment of education, testing, early purchasing and thus, green job development.

By making testing available to all innovators at an affordable price, in in various stages depending on the complexity and size of the project, we can foster innovation in the small entrepreneur's startup and even larger companies that are struggling with the economic downturn that isn't conducive to launching new products.

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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