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Will these types of products be inferior quality?

Many recycled or environmentally preferable products compare well in quality to their virgin counterparts. As with any product on the market, quality depends on several factors. For example, a commercial toilet tissue manufacturer may offer two levels of quality: an economy (lower quality) and a premium quality product. Quality may also depend on the product’s maturity in the market. The quality of recycled paper, for instance, has come a long way in the last 20 years. For the most part, its quality is just as high as that of virgin paper. 

Do recycled content or environmentally preferable products cost more?

Overall, cost differences will depend on the product, its quality and the existing market conditions. There are environmentally preferable products that cost less than their conventional counterparts. For example, several recycled printing papers cost less than virgin papers. Recycled plastic trash can liners (for commercial use) cost less than virgin because the postconsumer plastic resin currently has a lower market price than virgin plastic resin. The price of re-refined motor oil is now comparable to virgin motor oil.

How do I get started purchasing more of these products?

“Green” purchasing is no different from any other form of product evaluation usually done before a purchase is made, be it by governments, businesses or consumers. Environmental purchasing simply considers a greater range of product criteria. Departments may begin an environmental purchasing program by focusing initially on certain types of products or services and expanding to others as they gain experience.

When looking for recycled content products, what do the terms “postconsumer,” “pre-consumer” and “total recycled content” mean?

Recycled products may contain either a percentage of materials collected from office/curbside recycling programs (postconsumer), a percentage of materials generated after the manufacture of a product but before it reaches the end-user (pre-consumer) and/or virgin materials. The combination of postconsumer and pre-consumer content provides the total recycled content. For example, recycled content copy paper with 30% postconsumer and 10% pre-consumer content would have 40% total recycled content. 

Top-to-Bottom Green: Berkeley, CA

As a design/build architect and remodeling specialist, Maurice Levitch of Levitch Associates had always helped clients select design elements and materials based on economic factors and aesthetics. Recently, the combination of a client’s request that he learn more about sustainable building and an employee’s suggestion that he get certified as a green builder prompted Levitch to take a closer look at green building philosophies and methods.

Giving an Old House New Life: Berkeley, CA

Built 1908, Michael Boal's 2,200-square-foot Berkeley home was “remuddled” a few times over the decades, but still retained much of its traditional style. Boals brought in David Grubb Construction to rebuild the back of the house while preserving its nearly 100-year-old spirit. “Green building principles were used from literally top to bottom for this project — from the photovoltaic panels on the roof down to the high flyash concrete foundation,” says Grubb. 


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