Recent legislation such as the Buy Clean California Act and the Federal Inflation Act 2022 has thrust the term EPD into the building material marketplace, but what exactly is an EPD?
An Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is a verified and registered document that communicates transparent and comparable information about the life-cycle environmental impact of products. It uses a standardized reporting format, the ISO 14025 standard, to make it easier to compare products. EPDs are based on Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs), an internationally recognized methodology under ISO 14040 for quantifying the potential environmental impacts associated with all stages of a product's life, from raw material extraction through production to use and final disposal.
So the next question is, how can Labeling Sustainability gain maximum value for your investment in EPDs?
1. EPDs help avoid Greenwashing
An EPD provides transparent information about the life-cycle environmental impact of a product. EPDs help avoid greenwashing by providing a trustworthy source of information on which products are sustainable and which aren’t. Labeling Sustainability offers a free training course at the end of your EPD process to train your team and beyond what your EPD says and what claims you could make in your market space. We have found that most greenwashing happens by accident as someone makes a claim in "marketing-ease" that stretches the limit of what is true. To combat that, Labeling Sustainability will spend an hour with you to ensure everyone knows what is true for your product(s) and how to communicate that to help gain more market share.
2. EPDs help increase transparency
EPDs can also provide transparency in the supply chain, life cycle of the product, and its environmental impact. They provide information on how to reduce your carbon footprint as well as your water footprint. EPDs communicate to stakeholders key metrics about your product. As stated in #1, we believe so heavily in the valuable information that an EPD provides that we will spend time educating your staff free of charge. You did the work to create the EPD, now, let's communicate that to your stakeholders so they can know how amazing you are too.
3. EPDs help to measure a building’s carbon footprint
The carbon footprint of a building, non-operating, is the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions caused directly and indirectly by the extraction, transportation, manufacturing, installation, maintenance, and disposal of all the building materials. The carbon footprint of an EPD is displayed as the TRACI impact value, Global Warming Potential (GWP). Recent legislation at the local, state, and federal levels is focused on measuring the carbon footprint of building products so that, eventually, all products will have them, and you can add them to know the total carbon footprint of a building or its embodied carbon. The ultimate goal is to build buildings with the lowest carbon footprint. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), buildings account for 40% of all U.S. energy use and 15% of its total greenhouse gas emissions in the occupation phase therefore reducing your building's overall environmental impact can have a big impact on the environment!
4. EPDs can achieve LEED credits
LEED projects can achieve LEED credits by disclosing their EPD and demonstrating that they are meeting the requirements of one or more of these credits:
MR Credit: Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs)
MR Credit: Product Disclosure and Optimization
MR Credit: Material Health and Safety
5. EPDs satisfy California Assembly Bill 262 (AB262), Buy Clean California
A California Assembly Bill (AB) 262, also known as the Green Building Code, requires some building materials to be EPD certified by 2022, with plans to add building materials to the list until most of the impact materials have been captured.
EPDs must be verified by an independent third party, and they must be publicly accessible online. This means that the ultimate goal would be to find out the exact carbon footprint of the concrete before you buy pour it; it also means that you'll have access to this information when making future purchasing decisions (such as the flooring or paint for the interiors).
In addition to meeting these requirements for verification and availability, EPDs must also be updated every five years so that consumers always have up-to-date information about their products' environmental impact.
Denice Viktoria Staaf
LEED AP BD+C, Fitwel Ambassador, EPD & HPD Approved Preparer
ESG Consultant and Circularity Expert