EPDs for beginners: Sarah B Gregg from the Natural Stone Institute (NSI) explains what it is all about and why it is so important for stone companies

EPDs provide information about the ecological balance of a product.

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An Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is a document that provides transparent and comparable information about the environmental impact of a product throughout its entire life cycle, from raw material extraction to disposal. EPDs help consumers, purchasers, and specifiers make informed product decisions based on environmental performance. Sarah B Gregg, Marketing Director for the Natural Stone Institute, is the association’s specialist for sustainability and thus for EPDs. She explains what it is all about and why it is so important.

Sarah Gregg (third from left) and the NSI team. Photo: NSI

An EPD quantifies all environmental data on a product

Sarah B Gregg: In the stone industry we’re talking about water (offset by that which is recycled), electricity and fuels used to power our machines, and consumables such as diamond wires, tires, and packaging materials. It also measures the output of the quarry, input of the production facility, and final output of usable building materials. Some EPDs measure from cradle to gate which includes quarrying, transportation to production facility, and fabrication. Others are cradle to grave which adds in the next round of transportation, installation, cleaning and maintenance, repair and replacement, and disposal at the end of life.

EPDs are an important marketing tool

Sarah B Gregg: Most architecture firms give preference to materials that provide EPDs. Many progressive firms are even requiring them before products can be included in their material banks. In the US, some states like California, Washington, and Colorado already demand EPDs and maximum global warming potential (embodied carbon) numbers for high impact products like steel and concrete. There is more legislation brewing which indicates a likelihood for future regulations. Getting EPDs done now will position natural stone to thrive as a low-embodied carbon solution.

All EPDs must be third-party verified

Sarah B Gregg: EPDs are created using a standardized methodology, and are verified by an independent third party to ensure accuracy and credibility. This gives the natural stone industry a great opportunity to supplement our story with science-based, quantified, and comprehensive data points for comparison to artificial materials. Unfortunately, rampant greenwashing in the building materials market makes it difficult for consumers to differentiate between vague and misleading claims and and genuine environmental information.

Quarry production and workshop processing changes

Sarah B Gregg: Once companies begin tracking their environmental impacts, they are sure to identify efficiencies that will improve their processes. What gets measured, gets managed. To remain credible and relevant, EPDs should be renewed every five years. This allows manufacturers to provide current and accurate information to customers, and keep pace with evolving industry standards and regulations. Another benefit to this process is being able to show improvement in the environmental performance of their products.

The costs

Sarah B Gregg: The cost of creating an EPD can vary from about US-$3,000 to overUS-$15,000. The most economical way to approach them is to rally other quarriers and producers in your region share the cost of creating an industry-wide EPD. You can save both time and money by utilizing the PCRs and data collection templates developed by the Natural Stone Institute. Contact me to request them.

There are also Health Product Declarations

Sarah B Gregg: Health Product Declarations (HPDs) report the ingredients in a product along with their concentrations and potential health impacts. Since natural stone is a single-ingredient natural material that emits no VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), these documents are a very simple and effective tool for our industry to embrace. The Natural Stone Institute has created a set of 13 HPDs for common natural stone types including granite, limestone, marble, travertine and others. These are available for download and use throughout the global industry.

Sarah B Gregg, Mail

More information from the Natural Stone Institute webpage:
* Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs)
* Health Product Declarations (HPDs)