Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs)
Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) are a way for manufacturers to take comprehensive, third-party-verified LCAs, which are quite complex, and turn them into standardized declaration labels for their products.
"EPDs are communication tools that bring complex LCAs into a more user-friendly format by streamlining the information presented and enforcing as much consistency as possible.”EPDs are Type III environmental declarations (following ISO 14025; see definition in glossary) that communicate standardized environmental information about the life cycle impact of a product. EPDs are independently verified and registered documents based on industry standard product category rules (PCRs), but having an EPD does not imply that the declared product is environmentally superior to alternatives. An EPD reports a specific set of environmental results, which can only be created after a full LCA is conducted. Common impact categories include: global warming potential (GWP), ozone depletion potential, acidification potential, eutrophication potential, smog formation potential, and primary energy use.
- John Jewell, senior consultant, thinkstep, Boston
EPDs are more comprehensive than single-attribute product declarations and more reliable than non-standard life cycle claims. Although the ISO framework and PCRs are internationally coordinated, registries of EPDs are maintained by country-specific Program Operators. In the United States, these include (but are not limited to) ASTM International, NSF International, The Sustainability Consortium, UL Environment, etc. Note that the International EPD System® is operated by a company called EPD International AB. However, legitimate EPDs used in the United States need not be registered with the International EPD System.
An EPD will have certain characteristics:
- Compliance with ISO standards
- Adherence to the appropriate industry-standard PCR
- Third party certification of the LCA process
- A clear description of the functional unit
- A list of the life cycle stages considered in the analysis
- You might use EPDs to compare different flooring material options you are considering for your project, such as Vinyl Tile and Ceramic Tile.
- You might use EPDs to compare specific suppliers for the same product type such as steel rebar, such as Reinforcing Steel #1 and Reinforcing Steel #2