McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry LLC, mbdc.com

Consumers are scrutinizing the products they use, and the ingredients that go into them, more closely than ever. Designers addressing this concern for human and environmental health have a new certification they can use to communicate their ingredient choices to end users.

Consulting firm McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry LLC (MBDC), Charlottesville, Va., added a Cradle to Cradle Approved Ingredient certification to its Cradle to Cradle design framework. The overall goal of Cradle to Cradle is to promote products that do not create waste either as part of their production or their life cycle.

To qualify as an approved ingredient, a material must meet stringent sustainability requirements. This includes phasing out all “problematic” ingredients including those that have carcinogenic and mutagenic potential, are acutely or chronically toxic, or irritate or sensitize tissues. Toxicity to algae, fish, and other organisms; heavy metal or halogenated organic-compound content; ozone-depletion or globalwarming potential; and bioaccumulation or soil persistence are among the environmental criteria against which each material is assessed.

Individual ingredients are given green, yellow, orange, or red rankings. A green rating indicates the ingredient poses little or no risk. Yellow ingredients are deemed acceptable for use until a green alternative is found. An orange rating denotes a high risk is possible, but the raters do not have enough information.

High-risk ingredients are rated red, indicating they should be phased out as soon as possible.

In addition to these human and environmental health criteria, ingredients are also rated on how they contribute to or detract from a final product’s recyclability or compostability.

“The Cradle to Cradle Approved Ingredient certification makes it easier for designers to choose materials that meet material health and reutilization criteria,” said Jay Bolus, vice president of Technical Operations for MBDC.

The ingredient certification is open to all manufacturers that make chemicals, materials, or substances which are used in finished goods. MBDC’s in-house team of scientists and project managers assesses any materials seeking certification.

“Consumers want this type of information about finished products,” said Bolus. “They need confidence that the everyday things they touch and use have undergone this degree of scrutiny.”