Environmentally Preferable Products

Environmentally preferable products have a lesser or reduced negative effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing products that serve the same purpose.  International and national consensus-based standards promote environmental labels and declarations, life cycle assessment, ecodesign, and product stewardship of products such that they can be qualified as environmentally preferable.

The desire for environmentally preferable products comes from consumers who are asking for greater clarity in the marketplace regarding material content and life cycle impacts affecting social, environmental, and economic outcomes at the local and global levels.  Also, many companies seek to improve their products and use ecolabels and product declarations to differentiate them from competing products.  Governments are involved, too: market-based environmental instruments, such as ecolabels, round out their policy toolkits.

EEMI looks for opportunities to play a role in the improvement of products and to emphasize non-regulatory strategies and consensus-based standards. Examples include the ASTM International Committee E60 on Sustainability and the ISO 14000 series of standards. We also look to team with U.S. government agencies that promote environmentally preferable products with their own labeling and product selection schemes, including:

·       USDA’s BioPreferred bio-based products list

·       Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guides for environmental claims for electronics and building materials

·       Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star, Safer Choice, and WaterSense programs

·       The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) to achieve electronic stewardship

·       DOE’s Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) to meet energy-related requirements and goals

·       GSA’s Sustainable Facilities Tool (SFTool) for a compilation of information on healthy buildings and environmentally-responsible purchasing

Focal Area Lead: Kelly Scanlon, DrPH, MPH, CIH, Senior Research Scientist, EEMI; Science Advisor for Chemical and Material Risk Management, EOSH Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Energy, Installations, and Environment)