Of Course We Want HealthyPosted: September 14, 2014
It is becoming increasingly difficult for a small manufacturer creating a niche product that has positive environmental impacts (keeping materials with residual value and usefulness out of the landfill) to play the game that a diverse group of well-intentioned strategies and organizations are making necessary to continue to be specified by architects and interior designers. These standardizations are a good response to a whole host of “green” certification opportunists, maybe even a necessary response to that system which grew out of uncertainties regarding the claims that businesses make to market their products. With an increasingly concerned populace, the environmental and health impacts of the multitude of products they come into contact with everyday matters.
Recently, we were unable to participate in a specified project because we didn’t have an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) These are rigorous third party verified standard formats that assess (but do not judge) a product’s environmental impact. These evaluations are based on a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) that is performed using established Product Category Rules (PCRs). After the related work to create a EPD is completed, simply registering a single EPD costs 1,500 Euros.
Recently, a customer requested a Health Product Declaration (HPD) for our Origins material which they market as one of the surface treatment options for a line of children’s furniture. The HPD Collaborative is a collaboration of organizations, corporations, and companies intent on changing the impact that manufacturing and construction have on our environment and health. The HPD is an open standard, through which manufacturers report what makes up their product and any hazards that consumers need to be made aware. We are currently compiling the data to create this. That will not be a simple matter. The two colors this company has chosen (Origins 503 Warm Orange and 504 Cool Blue) have up to 14 different materials/colors (13 colors, some at less than 1% of the final formula, in a neutral colored base comprising 50% by weight from natural milk jugs). The ratio of colorant for each of the individual colors is 2-4% in natural (colorless) HDPE resin. We will need to know from what components each of the colorants has been created and then calculate how much of the entire product each of these contributes.
Certainly, we are happy to be 100% transparent about our products. We have always done our best to make that a dominant value. When we first selected our colorants 25+ years ago, we were reassured that none were toxic though not FDA grade (not meant to come into contact with food). Since we didn’t expect our products to be used in that way, the color houses we work with gave us all the reassurance we needed at the time. But times change and both EPDs and HPDs are becoming important factors in being able to supply our product to the marketplace.
Still, I’m not complaining. Health is important to me personally. I am careful about what I eat and feed my family. I care about the quality of water we drink and the purity of the air we breathe. We all make getting enough physical exercise a priority. At Yemm & Hart we do care that the product we provide to you won’t make anyone spending a lot of time in the vicinity of it ill. We will do our best within our means to afford to make all the information requested available to the professionals whose work goes on to impact untold numbers of people who may never know what a EPD or HDP are or that these are concepts created to keep them healthy.
In other slightly related news, the American Chemistry Council and the US Green Building Council have only recently announced that rather than fighting against one another’s interests, they will seek to leverage each other’s strengths for the common good of all. The primary source of contention has been related to chemical disclosures and some proposals as part of LEED v4 that could have discouraged the use of certain plastic products (primarily with PVC content) by issuing demerits. Some pressure from states such as Ohio to ban LEED v4 in order to protect state based manufacturers of foam insulation and vinyl products may have motivated the USGBC to be more conciliatory. The American Chemistry Council brings some science and technology expertise to marry with the USGBC’s very green environmental hearts. Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) will be part of that contribution.
As Rick Fedrizzi, the USGBC president/CEO and founding chair, expressed it – “The looming impacts of climate change and the possibilities of improving human health and wellbeing favor collaboration and engagement as key strategies . . . (in order to support) forward progress.” Those who do care, and Yemm & Hart as a company and its founders are among those who have cared for a very long time, are doing the best we can to ethically and morally rise to meet ALL of the inherent challenges facing humanity at this time in the planet’s history.
~ Information Resourcs
“HPDs and EPDs” – http://www.certainteed.com/Ceilings/Sustainability/EPDs-LCA
“What is an EPD?” – http://www.environdec.com/en/What-is-an-EPD/#.VBXwq7d0y70
Origins Patterns Color Chart – http://www.yemmhart.com/materials/origins/colorchartpatterns.html
“Truce ? ACC, US Green Building Council agree to work together on LEED” by Catherine Kavanaugh on Plastics News posted Aug 28, 2014 – http://www.plasticsnews.com/article/20140828/NEWS/140829913/truce-acc-us-green-building-council-agree-to-work-together-on-leed
Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer