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Environmental Footprinting of Products and Materials

Every product has an environmental “footprint” – the resources used and pollutants released over the life of the product, including supply chain, production, use, and management at end-of-life. “Carbon footprint” is the most common type of footprint, but businesses are exploring other types of footprints as well, addressing issues such as the water used to make products, or the toxic chemicals released over their life.

Brand owners are increasingly turning to product footprints as a way to better understand and manage environmental impacts, to uncover opportunities to reduce costs and risk, and to increase market share. Large retailers are increasingly requesting information about product-level environmental impacts, and some other nations are discussing requiring footprints of products sold into their markets, which could impact Oregon businesses.


In 2014 DEQ worked with the State of Washington, the Oregon Sustainability Board and an advisory group of stakeholders from across Oregon and Washington on a project to evaluate the potential benefits and challenges inherent in product-level environmental footprinting.
Current projects
In response to the 2014 research report, DEQ is implementing three projects:
  • Case studies: DEQ is working with the State of Washington and a selection of businesses to produce case studies of businesses with product footprinting experience. The case studies will highlight benefits, challenges, lessons learned and best practices.
  • Environmental product declarations for concrete: in partnership with the Oregon Concrete and Aggregate Producers Association, DEQ is making available to all concrete producers in Oregon a tool that will allow them to calculate the carbon footprint of each of their different concrete mixes, and also providing support for verifying these calculations so that they can be shared with customers, in a format called an “environmental product declaration.”
  • Environmental footprints of foods: DEQ has contracted with the University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems to review and summarize existing life cycle analyses regarding the environmental impacts of a variety of foods. 
Footprinting examples

Examples of Worldwide Product Environmental Footprinting Initiatives
Produced for DEQ and our associated agencies by Quantis


News articles about environmental footprinting

Following the footprints
Six Products, Six Carbon Footprints
How Green Is My Orange?
10 Things to Know About Life Cycle Assessments
How full product transparency can embed sustainability at the core of your business
3 myths about product life cycle assessments
Software allows brewers to tout eco stats on ale labels