Some motorized shading companies have gone beyond just offering systems that can make your energy use more efficient. They’re selling green materials as well. MechoShade’s EcoVeil fabric, for example, uses a recyclable material called TPO (ThermoPlastic Olefin) for its fabric, which is coated with a broken-down TPO as well. The product has been certified as Cradle-to-Cradle, meaning it can be reclaimed and recycled.
In cradle-to-cradle (C2C) products, every ingredient is supposed to be safe and can biodegrade naturally or be fully recycled. The cradle-to-cradle design paradigm was developed by William McDonough and Dr. Michael Braungart, and the certification program is administered by their firm, McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC).
You’ll pay more for products like EcoVeil, though. MechoShade president and chief operating officer Jan Berman estimates a 20 percent premium on manual shades, and less on motorized versions. “Some of the polymers we’re using are so new, the companies that make them are not making them in mass quantities, he says. “If the base polymer is adopted by other industries, the price of those would come down.”
And although EcoVeil can be recycled, no formal take-back program is in place.
Draper, too, offers FlexShade fabrics that are free of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) used in many solar shades. Draper also offers SheerWeave shades from Phifer that are Greenguard-certified for low emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), chemicals such as suspected carcinogens and allergens, that outgas, or vaporize into the air we breathe.
“My concern is that I see products that are simply PVC-free,” says Berman. “The question is. ‘What did you replace it with? What’s in there? And it’s not a single attirbiute. There’s also outgasing [of VOCs].”
By the way, if you want to read up on the effects of PVC (vinyl), peruse the Green Building Council’s “Assessment of the Technical Basis for a PVC-related Materials Credit for LEED”. It rates the household and manufacturing hazards of vinyl (PVC-based) and other materials used in window frames, flooring, piping and siding. It’s quite enlightening, and not just about PVC. The Wikipedia entry for PVC, by comparison, appears rife with vinyl-industry spin.
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Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates