Sustainable Material Research Guide

In researching a material, we consider its sustainability in terms of resource usage, environmental impact, human health, and social equity. Below each category are the items we research to assess a material’s sustainability.

Positive characteristics are marked with a “+” and negative characteristics are marked with an “x”.



The material and energy resources that go into producing and transporting the product.

  • +  Is the material made of recycled, reclaimed, or certified renewable content?
  • +  Is the material organically produced and certified?
  • +  Does distribution minimize packaging waste and transporation emissions?
  • +  Is there a take-back program?
  • +  Is there a publicly available Life Cycle Assessment of this material?
  • +  Is the source of materials transparent?
  • +  Are the materials sourced locally?

Environmental Impact

The effects of the material on the environment from manufacturing to end of useful life.

  • +  Is the product manufacturing locally?
  • +  Is there a second life for manufacturing waste, such as scraps or cutoffs?
  • × What by-products or pollutants are created by the manufacturing process?
  • +  Does the manufacturer meet or exceed regulatory policies?
  • +  Is the product recyclable in existing recycling streams?
  • +  Is reuse or downcycling encouraged?
  • +  Does the material naturally decompose?

Human Health

Hazards associated with the material’s manufacturing and use and disposal.

  • ×  Does the material emit VOCs in manufacture, intended use, or disposal?
  • ×  Are there any known carcinogens, air pollutants, or toxic substances created during the production of this material?
  • ×  Are adhesives and finishes required for use and installation?
  • +  Is there a publicly available Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the material?
  • +  Are there pollution treatment systems in effect?
  • +  Does the manufacturer meet health and air quality requirements?
  • +  Are appropriate precautions taken for worker safety?

Social Equity

The relationship between the company, its employees and the surrounding community.

    • +  Are there benefits/programs (such as daycare services, carpooling, fair living wages) for all employees?
    • +  Does the company employ local members of the community?
    • +  Does they offer community and charitable outreach programs?
    • +  Does they support cultural and economic growth?
    • +  Does the company have a public Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy?
    • +  Are they an equal opportunity employer?

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