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FURNISHINGS SOON TO GET
STAMP OF ECO APPROVAL

Is your sofa eco-friendly? Does the fabric off-gas toxins? Did the wood come from a sustainable forest? Was it designed to be disassembled at the end of its useful life, with the various parts going to make something new?

How would you know?

If William McDonough has it his way, the knowing will be lots easier -- paving the way for consumers to make more informed eco-choices.

The most lauded green architect and designer (and co-author of the eco-design book "Cradle to Cradle") in the U.S., McDonough recently launched the Cradle to Cradle product and material certification system.

Similar to the Good Housekeeping Seal, the voluntary program will award a Cradle to Cradle logo to furniture, fabric, carpets and a slew of other products and materials that pass muster on a battery of environmental and human health criteria.

The program is administered by McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry, the design consultancy firm that McDonough opened in 1995 along with German green chemist Michael Braungart. The two (who have worked with companies such as Ford Motor Co., The Gap, Nike and Herman Miller to develop green products and practices) put their beliefs on eco-intelligent design to paper in the 2002 book "Cradle to Cradle" (North Point Press, 208 pages, $25). It has become something of a bible and mantra for the green design movement.

McDonough, who is based in Virginia, made the announcement at NeoCon, the contract furniture industry's major trade show, held recently in Chicago.

And indeed, some of the first companies to submit products for Cradle to Cradle testing are contract furniture manufacturers. Among them: Herman Miller; Steelcase and Haworth. The hope, though, is to get manufacturers of "everything and anything"(including residential furnishings) to participate, according to Ken Alston, a spokesman for McDonough Consulting.

The Cradle to Cradle logo will start appearing on products and materials in the next few months.

Written by: Karen Klages, Chicago Tribune

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