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Beyond Green

Although good design has become increasingly valued in our culture in the past few decades, from high-concept homegoods lines at Target to “starchitect” buildings headlining development in cities around the globe, a great deal of attention has also been paid to making our lifestyles on earth more sustainable. You’ve heard the term “green” used a lot, no doubt, but you might not have heard of some of the science behind it.

This business/environment balancing act started years ago with the development of the Life Cycle Assessment. One of the first of these was commissioned by Coca-Cola in 1969 to determine the impact of their container materials on the environment – starting at their manufacture and going all the way to disposal. As a result, Coke found ways to reclaim some of the more problematic materials in cans for recycling, which led to dramatic reductions in waste overall. It was a turning point of sorts for businesses interested in having a smaller environmental impact, because instead of just following government regulations on allowable waste at particular points in the manufacturing and distribution process, it took the entire life cycle of a product’s development and use into account to assess the net affect. Over the years, these assessments have focused more on energy savings than on materials, and today they are an integral part of improving sustainability at corporations around the globe.

In another important marker on the sustainability timeline, the US Green Building Council formed in 1993. They quickly went about researching current standards for sustainable building design and development, then worked to create their own system for defining and measuring it. This resulted in the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Pilot Project Program, LEED 1.0, which launched in 1998. In 2000, they debuted certification levels and standards – Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. And more recently, LEED 4.0 upgraded what the USGBC describes as “the world’s premier benchmark for high-performance green buildings.”

“Green” may be an overused buzzword, but sustainability is more than just a passing fad. And the ways that all corporations view the lifecycles of their products and the building of their headquarters and facilities says a lot about their values. At TOTO, we make sure that every step we take keeps People, the Planet and Water in mind. And that makes this earth a better place for us all.