Defining Sustainability for Paints and Coatings - Call for Comment

Defining Sustainability for Paints and Coatings - Call for Comment

2/16/2021 | Brie Welzer

Green Seal's Standard for Paints, Coatings, Stains, and Sealers (GS-11) has been rewarding leading manufacturers for low-VOC content, safer formulas, and effective functional performance since it was first issued in 1993.  

Now, Green Seal is proposing several revisions to this standard to strengthen indoor air quality protections and fully align with the LEED® green building certification, providing a simple purchasing choice for health-focused buyers. 

Working with Paint Industry Leaders 

The North American paints and coatings industry has made major strides in green chemistry innovation in tandem with growing market demand for healthier, greener products. Leading manufacturers have achieved significant reductions in VOC content and hazardous chemical ingredients while maintaining the performance consumers expect.  

Green Seal’s original leadership standard for paints and coatings, published in 1993, was the first to set limits on VOCs. Today, Green Seal’s is still the only standard in this product category to restrict carcinogens, reproductive toxins, hazardous air pollutants, alkylphenol ethoxylates, and a host of other chemicals, ensuring certified products are safer for building occupants while providing uncompromising functional performance.  

Manufacturer investments and innovations have led to safer supply chains and improved air quality around the world.  Case in point: In 2020, paints and coatings meeting Green Seal’s leadership standard prevented more than half a million pounds of VOC pollution across 120 million square feet of LEED-certified building space alone. 

Aligning with LEED to Provide Buyers a Simple Choice  

Green Seal regularly evaluates our standards for accuracy and relevance to ensure they correctly define sustainability leadership in an evolving marketplace. The changes we are proposing are intended to strengthen this standard and ensure it aligns with the most recent version of the LEED green building standard (LEED v4.1), a key market driver.  

The three key updates we are proposing are: 

  • Strengthening VOC Content Limits.  All products must comply with the VOC limits defined by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). CARB VOC limits reduce the potential for the formation of photochemical ozone and smog, which can cause serious respiratory issues.  
  • Requiring VOC emissions testing. Products must undergo VOC emissions testing conducted in an environmental chamber according to the State of California’s Department of Public Health Standard Method (CDPH). This test will allow Green Seal to confirm low levels of off-gassing after paints are applied, increasing health protections for building occupants and promoting overall healthier indoor environments.  
  • Aligning two chemical restrictions with LEED language.  Adding a clarification that perchloroethylene and methylene chloride -- which Green Seal prohibited in certified products decades ahead of government regulation – are not allowed to be intentionally added to product formulas at any level. 

With these updates, Green Seal certified products will meet both the chemical content and VOC emissions testing requirements of LEED v4.1, making it easy for green building project managers to identify products that check all the boxes.   

Seeking Feedback

Green Seal’s reputation for credibility and market impact rests on an open and transparent process for developing and revising our science-based standards. All major standard revisions include extensive stakeholder outreach and opportunities for public input. Green Seal publishes all formally submitted comments, as well as a response to each substantive issue identified by commenters. 

The public comment period is now open. Green Seal will be accepting public comments until March 19th, 2021. Please email to standards@greenseal.org to submit a comment.  

 The Proposed Criteria and supplementary documents are available on Green Seal's Standard Revisions page.