What are the “Red List” and LEED and how do they impact choices for materials in products.

Part 1 Recap

The definition of office sustainability has many facets including:

  • The component materials used in manufacturing
  • Where the products originate
  • How a company treats its employees (fair wage, safe working conditions)
  • If buildings/manufacturing sites are built and operated in a way that minimizes environmental impact


How do a Company’s Purchases Impact the Environment?

Material components and cleaning programs play a large part in the sustainability of both the construction and the furniture selection of your office space.  Companies both large and small greatly influence the materials that are used in the construction and the design of furniture. It is where companies decide to spend their hard earned dollars, that supports a more environmentally healthy world.

There are many standards introduced, even on a yearly basis, to serve as guides to buy the most sustainable products possible and maintain a clean air office environment.  Two that are highly respected and used frequently are The Red List and LEED.

To illustrate the power of purchasing choices, The Red list, which is created and maintained by the International Living Future Institute, has been associated with Google due to early implementation. In 2012 Google’s team made a choice not to buy anything that contained components from the Red List.  In addition, others followed Google’s lead and added The Red list as a requirement on their projects as well.

Your purchases create an important trickle-down effect where the manufacturing knowledge gained from eliminating the materials on the Red List can be used by smaller companies as well that don’t have the same budgets.


The Red List:

The Red List is a list of prevalent building materials that have been used in the past that are extremely harmful for the environment as well as factory workers, anyone who works in an office with those materials and the global community at large.

 A few Red List items include Asbestos and PVC’s along with wood treatments containing arsenic and creosote.






LEED has eight categories in which to earn one of four certification levels (Certified, Silver, Gold, Platinum) for new and existing buildings. These eight categories span everything from Water Efficiency, Sustainable Sites, Materials and Resources and even credit for remediating local issues called Regional Priority.


The “Indoor Environmental Quality” (EQ) category focuses on indoor air quality and thermal, visual, and acoustic comfort. It is probably the most similar to the infamous Red List ideals in addition to the “Materials and Resources” category, specifically in the ventilation controls credits, credits for low-emitting materials, and the source control and monitoring for user-determined contaminants.


The EQ category has six main tenants ranging from the prevention of second-hand smoke to the installation of high-efficiency air filters, and a couple of them can be implemented right away in your office: green cleaning programs and the selection of low-emitting materials.

You can make a difference by making sure that your office has a cleaning program that, at the minimum level, ensures that cleaning products and practices are eco- and heath-friendly. Go one step further and request that all the paints, insultation, furniture, sealants, flooring, composite woods and the like in your office are low-emitting materials.



Author: Angela Tomlinson
Market Development Director

Co-Author: Sarah D. Fischer