C2C Certified in Practice: Mecho

Solar shading solutions manufacturer Mecho engineers high-performing systems and products that not only optimize the performance of buildings through solar control, but also promote occupant comfort, health and performance. An early adopter of Cradle to Cradle design principles, the company has certified all of its manual shade systems. In addition, all of its PVC-free solar shades are now Cradle to Cradle Certified™ or have a Cradle to Cradle Material Health Certificate. As a member of the Cradle to Cradle Certified Version 4 Pilot Program, Mecho is now looking to become one of the first companies to certify one of its products under the V4 draft standard. 

Rachel Berman, Mecho’s sustainability program manager, talked with us about how the Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard has become a core aspect of the company’s own sustainability program:

What first inspired Mecho’s commitment to Cradle to Cradle certification? 

Mecho has always strived to enhance and optimize spaces for people and the environment. In the late 1990s, the building industry became more aware of the environmental and human health impacts buildings were having -- a revelation that became known as “sick buildings.” Around that time, we were also introduced to the Cradle to Cradle design methodology, which Mecho adopted to guide the reformulation of our own products as part of our work to create healthier spaces. 

We immediately saw how the Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard’s focus on both material health and product circularity could provide us with a holistic framework for optimizing the safety and circularity of many of our products. In the early 2000s, our EcoVeil product became the first Cradle to Cradle Certified™, PVC-free shadecloth on the market and our commitment has grown from there. 

Can you share an example? 

Applying the Cradle to Cradle Certified framework has helped us drive positive change in a variety of ways, including providing us with a pathway for continuously improving the material health of our products. Our first certified product, EcoVeil, offers a great example of this. When we set out a recertification and optimization plan for EcoVeil, we flagged CFRs (a critical class of flame retardant chemicals) as an opportunity for material health innovation and improvement. 

The challenge was that all shadecloths used in commercial spaces must comply with flame test method NFPA-701, making it extremely difficult to fully eliminate CFRs from our product line. Using the Cradle to Cradle Certified material health methodology to help us systematically evaluate, reformulate and optimize our products, we spent the better part of two decades researching and testing various other flame retardant chemicals and alternate materials. As a result, in 2017 we released EcoVeil Sheer, the first commercially available shadecloth that passes the NFPA-701 flame test without the use of CFRs. 

What does Mecho hope to gain from joining the Cradle to Cradle Certified V4 Pilot Program? 

We are thrilled to participate in the Cradle to Cradle Certified V4 Pilot Program. Because the certification framework is central to the continuous improvement of our products, we have decided to use the pilot program opportunity to certify our Whispershade IQ2 AC + DC Motorized Systems product. Our hardware assemblies are completely custom for every order and have thousands of potential parts and configurations, so certifying Whispershade will pose some different - and interesting -  innovation and optimization challenges for us as compared to our textile products, especially when it comes to product circularity. We believe the V4 draft standard’s robust Product Circularity requirements, including the Materials Passport, will help us create and implement circular strategies for each Whispershade’s material components, which range from plastics to motors. 

Contributing to the V4 pilot process also gives Mecho the opportunity to help the Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard grow and evolve. As an industry leader, we believe it’s important for us to contribute to the development of a standard that will give any organization a robust framework for implementing safe and circular strategies and practices, no matter where they happen to be on their sustainability journey.

Speaking of the journey, what do you see as the building industry’s next big challenge in its own journey towards circular practices and products? 

Only one? In all seriousness, there are two challenges that I see as the biggest barriers to expanding circularity within the built environment. The first is creating market demand for circular products through specification: as an industry, we need to start having more conversations about demolition during the specification stage. Second, reverse logistics. As a manufacturer, we can design for disassembly and create a materials passport, but how do we ensure these instructions are implemented 20+ years from now? That said, I believe that with the growth of certifications like Cradle to Cradle, the industry will become more aware of the importance of incorporating circular strategies into all stages of the project lifecycle.

Rachel Berman, Mecho sustainability program manager