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Environmental Product Declarations

One Step Closer to Sustainable Materials

November 2011
Sponsored by Western Red Cedar Lumber Association

Continuing Education

Use the following learning objectives to focus your study while reading this month’s Continuing Education article.

Learning Objectives - After reading this article, you will be able to:

  1. Discuss the reliability of various eco-labels.
  2. Explain how environmental product declarations contribute to sustainability.
  3. Cite the components of an environmental product declaration.
  4. Differentiate between environmental product declarations and life cycle assessments in defining green products.

Credits: 1.00 HSW


This course was approved by the GBCI for 1 GBCI CE hour(s) for LEED Credential Maintenance.

This test is no longer available for credit

NOTE: LEED 2012 has not been finalized as of the date of this publication (November 2012). The second public comment period closed in September 2011, and a third public comment period is scheduled to open early in the first quarter of 2012.

From corporate America to the average household, the move to live and work more sustainably is on. But with all the environmental claims made by companies seeking to advance their products, businesses and consumers are at the mercy of competing claims of "green," "eco friendly," "environmentally sound," and the like. Amid the proliferation of eco-labels and green washing, the market is demanding greater transparency and reliable evidence of sustainability claims.

This article is a primer on the latest step in that direction: environmental product declarations (EPD), which seek to provide relevant, verified and comparable information about the environmental impacts of goods and services. Under discussion will be the basics of EPDs—the information they contain, their evolution, status in North America, and how they offer real evidence of a product's environmental footprint. Examples of EPDs will be presented with a focus on the wood industry, as will a discussion of how architects can use EPDs along with other environmental rating systems in designing more sustainable structures.

EPDs—What Are They?

"Today there are hundreds of labels intended to signify environmental attributes of various products," says Dr. Jim Bowyer, director of the Responsible Materials Program at Dovetail Partners, which provides information about tradeoffs and impacts of environmental decisions. "Many of these labels focus on one or two product attributes. Others are more comprehensive but lack commonality in scope or evaluation methods to allow straightforward comparisons of products. Some have no science behind them at all," says Bowyer, who is author of a 2011 Dovetail report entitled Environmental Product Declarations Are Coming—Is Your Business Ready?

Materials like western redcedar are beginning to have environmental product declarations.

Architect: Battersby Howat

 

Originally published in the November/December 2011 issue of GreenSource
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