Picking the Proper Product

Products and services have environmental impacts throughout their life cycles - from raw material acquisition, to manufacturing, to packaging and distribution, to use, and disposal - long before and long after we have purchased and used them. Fortunately, there are usually opportunities to reduce the environmental impacts throughout each of these lifecycle phases. While there are no officially designated "environmentally sensitive" products or services, there are questions that can help to improve environmental results. To adequately evaluate the environmental impacts of a product or service, purchasers should consider impacts across the product's entire life cycle and examine multiple environmental attributes. According to EPA's Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) program, there are four main environmental attributes to consider during the purchasing process:

· Natural resources use, including energy and water consumption, the use of renewable rather than non-renewable resources, and potentially adverse effects on endangered species or fragile ecosystems.

· Impacts on human and ecological health from stressors such as ozone-depleting chemicals, toxic chemicals, indoor air quality hazards, hazardous waste, municipal solid waste, or other pollutants.

· Hazards associated with toxic materials that can harm humans, animals, or plants, or elements that require safety precautions during product use or storage because of corrosive, flammable, and reactive qualities.

· Positive attributes such as durability, recycled content, energy or water efficiency, resuability, recyclability, or suitability for remanufacture.

Purchases should evaluate attributes most relevant to the product or service being examined and to the local environmental conditions. Purchasers should then compare these attributes to those of similar products. For more information, visit the EPP Web site at www.epa.gov/oppt/epp.

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