Sustainable Materials Review: Is Corian TreeHugger Green?


Responsible materials selection is one of the most important steps in creating sustainable design. While many materials featured here at TreeHugger represent different shades of green (and few are perfect), we think it's important to know the implications of using one material over another; this is especially true when a product claims or is marketed to be "green." Such is the case with DuPont's Corian, a thermosetting plastic that DuPont has presented as a "green" product (though it comes in many colors -- ha ha). But is Corian really TreeHugger green?

It's tempting to think so, but, unfortunately, it isn't as easy as that, as much as DuPont wants us to think so. Though they're able to point to a few common measures of "green" with Corian (long life and durability, virtually no off-gassing of VOCs, no heavy metals or carcinogens in the pigments) and to some larger measures throughout the company itself ("Greenhouse gas emissions from our global operations are now down 63 percent (on a Kyoto basis) since 1990" and "Total energy consumption now stands at 101 percent of 1990 levels, essentially offsetting a 35 percent increase in production over this period."), we aren't ready to give them a firm green handshake or pat on the back.

Like many large companies, DuPont has to start with big goals, using words like "journey" and "continuous improvement", which, while not a bad thing, don't let them off the hook or give them license to call their products "green." It's great that they appear to be working on it -- we wish them all the continued success with incorporating sustainability into their business practices -- but "green" is not the same thing as "not as bad as before." The company continues to "drive toward a goal of zero waste generation at the source, and zero emissions", which is a nice goal, and something shareholders are happy to hang their hats on, but we can't be satisfied with simply stating goals (like "Conserve energy and resources, including coal, oil, natural gas, water and minerals", which sounds almost like a cop-out), no matter how green they sound.

So, though DuPont's states "all the colors of Corian® can be considered 'green'", they aren't TreeHugger green (just yet). We don't want to rain on their (getting) green(er) parade, but we can't take their green claims at face value, either. We applaud them for getting the ball rolling, and are glad to see that they're addressing some human health issues (with low product and adhesive sealant offgassing, and food and healthcare safety) but until it's made with recycled content, or created with renewable (read: non-petroleum) resources or other measurable green processes, it hasn't earned a TreeHugger thumbs up. ::Dupont's Environmental Case for Corian

See also: ::New, Biopolymer Versions of Sorona(R) and Hytrel(R) From Dupont and ::Ceres Ranks 100 Global Companies on Climate Change Strategies