EPA’s New Waste Tracking Feature

This figure was created by Robert A. Rohde from published data and is part of the Global Warming Art project.

WASHINGTON – Building managers can now track energy, water, greenhouse gas emissions and waste together in Energy Star’s Portfolio Manager.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has unveiled a waste and materials tracking feature in its Energy Star Portfolio Manager, which is a free benchmarking and tracking tool for commercial building owners and managers. Reducing waste and reusing materials more productively through sustainable materials management over their entire lifecycles conserves resources, helps communities remain economically competitive and supports a healthy environment.

EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager is already used to measure energy, water and greenhouse gas metrics in more than 450,000 U.S. buildings, representing over 40 percent of U.S. commercial space, as well as in more than 10,000 buildings in Canada.

Now, owners and managers using Portfolio Manager will be able to benchmark 29 types of waste across four different management metrics alongside their existing sustainability management indicators. Types of waste include building materials, glass, paper, plastics, and trash.

Currently, U.S. commercial buildings and manufacturing activities are responsible for as much as 45 percent of the 150 million tons of waste in the United States that ends up in incinerators or landfills each year. The transportation, decomposition, and burning of this waste generates greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants.

The addition of waste tracking is the culmination of a year-long collaboration between EPA’s Energy Star and Sustainable Materials Management programs and members of the industry to identify key performance metrics for waste and materials management.

According to the EPA, increasing emissions of greenhouse gases due to human activities worldwide have led to a substantial increase in atmospheric concentrations of long-lived and other greenhouse gases (see theAtmospheric Concentrations of Greenhouse Gases indicator). Every country around the world emits greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, meaning the root cause of climate change is truly global in scope.

Some countries produce far more greenhouse gases than others, and several factors—such as economic activity (including the composition and efficiency of the economy), population, income level, land use, and climatic conditions—can influence a country’s emissions levels. Tracking greenhouse gas emissions worldwide provides a global context for understanding the United States’ and other nations’ roles in climate change.