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.
In response to the 2014 research report, DEQ implemented three projects:
- Case studies: DEQ, the Washington Department of Ecology and the Oregon Sustainability Board have published four case studies of businesses that have used product environmental footprinting to assess environmental conditions, identify opportunities for improvement, uncover business potential, and communicate with customers. The case studies 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.