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The Alphabet Soup of Transparency Tools
Green certification shouldn’t feel like a game of Scrabble, but if you pursue certain tools, you’ll score a bonus in sustainability.
There are a growing number of acronyms in the industry, so it’s important you don’t get them jumbled. Learn how Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), Product Transparency Declarations (PTDs), and Health Product Declarations (HPDs) differ.
Lifecycle assessment (LCA) is factored into all three, and they could help you achieve LEED status or other designations.
Declarations of Disclosure
EPDs, HPDs, and PTDs were developed by SCS Global Services to effectively promote transparency, accuracy, scientific credibility, and comparability across several interior products.
While there is some overlap among the tools in terms of ingredient disclosure, they vary in how they report the impact of those ingredients on lifecycle, occupant health, and other criteria.
EPDs are summary reports of product-related environmental impacts based on a cradle-to-grave lifecycle assessment. HPDs are disclosures of product content and potential health hazards from chemicals of concern.
“There are two types of EPDs – basic for those seeking LEED v4 credits, and ‘full transparency’ EPDs that provide more comprehensive information based on advanced LCA,” says Stowe Beam, managing director of SCS’s division of environmental certification services. “HPDs enable companies to communicate the safety of potentially hazardous chemicals.”
PTDs are for products that undergo a health hazard assessment. They go a step beyond HPDs by disclosing intentionally added ingredients, including heavy metals. They acknowledge materials on six authoritative lists (see below) and indicate whether the ingredient level triggers an exposure warning notification based on the content.
“It’s a marriage between ingredient and exposure disclosure,” says Dean Thomson, president of the Resilient Floor Covering Institute. “PTDs also detail recycled content and VOC emissions.”
How to Use Them to Your Advantage
Think of these tools as nutritional labels for interiors products. They are all voluntary, so if a manufacturer has pursued them, you can feel confident in their commitment to sustainability.
Instead of using these designations as the basis for an apples-to-oranges comparison, they’re more apt for comparing Red Delicious to Granny Smith. The tools may seem the same at first glance, but their differences outweigh the similarities.
After digesting the alphabet soup of disclosure, ask yourself three key questions:
How is the product being sourced and delivered? Shipping a sustainable product overseas likely defeats its purpose.
How will the product be used? Cleaning solutions, wear and tear, room temperature, and moisture can significantly affect a product’s performance.
What happens at end-of-life? If a manufacturer offers recycling and disposal services, that’s a bonus. You don’t want the product to end up in a landfill.
And remember, these tools are meant to make your life easier, not harder.
“EPDs, PTDs, and HPDs present a product’s ecological impact in a way that is easy to comprehend,” explains Dave Kitts, vice president of environment at flooring manufacturer Mannington. “Lifecycle assessments are very detailed and granular. They have a scientific feel and are hard to understand. These tools standardize environmental information for an average reader.”
Chris Curtland is assistant editor of BUILDINGS.