Shaw joins Gov. Schwarzenegger at Green Institute launch

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Mountain View, Calif.—Google’s headquarters here was the backdrop for the launch of the first-in-the-nation, non-profit Green Products Innovation Institute (GPII), which featured academic, business, government and environmental leaders including Califnoria Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Shaw Industries.

The Institute will be headquartered in San Francisco, and is dedicated to developing comprehensive chemical standards for every day products that are safe and healthy for humans and the environment. GPII will work to advance the framework outlined in the book “Cradle to Cradle,” authored by architect and designer William McDonough and Dr. Michael Braungart, two of the institute’s co-founders.

At the formation ceremony, Schwarzenegger said “This institute will revolutionize the way we design products and serve as a benchmark for those who aspire to set new standards of environmental and human health and safety for all products…”

Vance Bell, Shaw’s CEO, one of a number of Shaw representatives who attended the event, noted the mill was not only an early adaptor of the cradle to cradle (C2C) concept, its 10-year-old EcoWorx carpet tile was “the first product in the flooring industry designed according to C2C principles.”

To date, more than 300 products and 90 companies have engaged in the C2C certification process. Along with Shaw, companies such as Herman Miller and Ford Motor Co., are active proponents of C2C.

Bell explained the tenets of C2C and the mission of the institute “align strongly” with Shaw’s commitment to sustainability through innovation. “In passing on the C2C certification and protocols to the GPII, MBDC (McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry) are helping us move ever closer to a safer, healthier world by making the C2C framework more transparent and more globally accessible to academic institutions, research organizations, governmental and non-governmental entities and, manufacturers.”

GPII launches with a strong supporting cast from across a wide spectrum of public and private sectors. In addition to McDonough and Braungart among those in its Founders’ Circle are actor Brad Pitt; Chad Hurley, founder of YouTube, and TV icon Norman Lear and his wife Lyn. Others include high profile and experienced contributors in the areas of green science, academics, government and business.

Rick Ramirez, Shaw’s vice president of sustainability, called GPII a “groundbreaking initiative” because of its “potential to influence the entire cycle of product design, manufacture and reclamation.”

Schwarzenegger added, “The time is now for us to go beyond simply being ‘less bad’ and to lead the world in the invention and innovation of ‘more good’ with cradle to cradle products and a prosperous C2C economy. Together, we will inspire and transform the world.”

How it works

Using the C2C certification protocol, GPII will work with leaders from academia, the non-governmental organizations (NGO) environmental community, government and industry to establish a rating system for evaluating products. The criteria will be based upon five categories: 1) Safe and appropriately sourced materials; 2) Material reutilization; 3) Renewable energy; 4) Access to and release of abundant, clean water, and 5) Social responsibility.

Products that meet the transparent criteria of this rating system will receive the C2C certification mark representing the company’s work to design or redesign these products in a sustainable fashion.

To help companies obtain certification, the institute will train and certify licensed assessors, who will assist businesses in complying with the protocol. Companies will submit their assessments to the institute for auditing, and a certification will be issued if the product meets the pre-requisites. After the institute has rated a given product, it will work with companies to voluntarily share information about the chemistry of their materials.

GPII will be based in San Francisco due to California’s progressive and leadership roles in environmental activism but will act in an international capacity, McDonough explained.

It will play an international role in two ways, he added: first, it will be the global reference standard for C2C certification, with multiple other countries already interested in following suit. “The C2C design principles are already informing major industrial redesign efforts by the governments of the Netherlands, Abu Dhabi and China. Our governance structure will allow for this model to be replicated throughout the world while the core tenets and metrics remain coherent. Second, California’s green chemistry policies will have a worldwide impact because California, as the 8th largest economy, is one of the world’s largest markets for goods. Manufacturers will be compelled to produce goods that the people of California are asking for—and we anticipate other states, and other countries, are closely behind.”

To help jumpstart the initiative, GPII received a $165,000 grant from the DOEN Foundation, which was established in 1991 by the Dutch Postcode Lottery to generate funds for charity organizations dedicated to ‘people’ and the ‘planet.’ An additional grant has been promised by the J.M. Kaplan Fund, which focuses on three program areas—environment, historic preservation and migrations—but was not yet made at press time.

For more in GPII, contact Beth Rattner, executive director at beth@gpinnovation.org.

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