Building scientists, architects,and consultants often take the position that there really isn’t such a thing as a “green” product. Every product requires resources, and its manufacture generates waste in the process, so building products should be categorized in levels of “less bad.”

Fair enough, but whether you call building products green or sustainable or less bad, the fact remains that some products contribute to reducing a house’s environmental footprint. The products on the following pages fit squarely in this category.

Some of them, such as Owens Corning’s new EnergyComplete whole-house insulation and air sealing system, make the building envelope tighter and, thus, more efficient. Others, such as Niagara Conservation’s Stealth toilet (which requires a mere 0.8 gallons per flush), use a trickle rather than a torrent of water. Some simply find a use for waste material—such as the newsprint insulation from fiberAmerica or the wine barrel flooring collection from Fontenay—that otherwise would end up in a landfill.

Yes, it may be disingenuous to say that a window is green, but there's no doubt that windows are among one of the most important products in a high-performance house. That’s why our products cavalcade also includes some of the most energy-efficient stock windows on the market.

So while the greenness of a product—where it comes from, how it’s made, etc.—is important, its performance may be the most significant part of its value.