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Environmental Measurement: Opportunities
Table of Contents
Background and Overview
Reasons to Measure Environmental Performance
Developing a Measurement System
Calculators and Tools
Where To Go for P2 Help
Complete List of Links

Essential Links:

Developing and Using Production-Adjusted Measurement of Pollution Prevention
Documents research to identify ways to measure pollution prevention (P2) at industrial facilities, i...

Environmental Performance Measurement Toolkit
(Not available online, but can request copy EPA contact at 202-566-2951). This pre-publication draf...

Implementation Guide for the Code of Environmental Management Principles for Federal Agencies (CEMP)...
Part 5 of this document, titled "Measurement and Improvement", guides the government in the use of p...

Measuring Environmental Performance - A Primer and Survey of Metrics in Use
Primer discusses considerations for designing a metrics program and a compilation of indicators.

P2 Measurement Tools - Methodologies Report
Describes objective various P2 Measurement Tools used by state, local and tribal governments, and ac...

Depending on the reasons for measuring information, which should be addressed when developing or improving a measurement system, many strategies and examples are available for:

The National Pollution Prevention Roundtable published a thorough report in 2009, titled "P2 Measurement Tools - Methodologies Report", compiling and describing numerous available tools for data measurement, collection, calculations, and data management. Additional strategies, models, tools, and examples follow.

Tracking and Data Collection

Data acquisition and tracking systems vary from a handwritten logsheet, to a fully automated, relational database with direct data input from monitoring equipment.

Several agencies have custom programs, registries, or systems they have developed to track, capture, and quantify effectiveness of environmental activities. P2Rx hosts a National P2 Measurement database. There are several greenhouse gas registries, including Department of Energy's 1605 program, and U.S. EPA Climate Leaders. Other government-based systems tracking agency and/or business efforts, with publically available results include:

  • U.S. EPA Climate Leaders (currently inactive but all info is still available on the U.S. EPA website) - a volountary program where companies report annual greenhouse gas inventories and reduction efforts.
  • National Environmental Performance Partnership System (NEPPS) - These are the core performance measures agreed upon by EPA and the States, under NEPPS - for air, waste, water, and enforcement and compliance. The package is intended to link goals, indicators, core performance measures, and planned outputs into one management and accountability system.
  • U.S. EPA Performance Track (currently an archived program, however historical reports and information are available) - a voluntary program to incentivise and motivate businesses by rewarding top environmental performance for organizations that have implemented enviromental management and have shown measurable results.

For industrial or other commercial facilities not developing a custom tracking and reporting system, there are a number of off-the-shelf enviromental software programs that allow tailoring of data and reports. Some software tools for purchase that may be useful in data tracking include the following list.

  • Blue292
  • EHS Software
  • Green Suite
  • GreenWare ISO 14001 and Greenhouse Gas
  • IHA Greenhouse Gas Suite
  • opsEnvironmental
  • Fingerprint Environmental Software

Note: This is not an endorsement of any of these products by PPRC or P2Rx.


Analyzing and Interpreting Information

Analysis or interpretation of the data and information can be as simple as comparing reduced environmental impacts over time as shown by the different methods and examples below.

Discussion and Examples
Calculations of impacts based on monitored data

A number of simple online calculators, and/or downloadable calculators can convert energy use, solid waste, and recycling into greenhouse gas emissions, carbon equivalents, or other environmental impacts. Other "downloadable" calculators cover combustion emissions, impacts of air and auto travel, costs associated with P2, water efficiency, life cycle impacts, and more. See a compilation of calculators here.



Normalization of data allows for adjustment of environmental inforation with respect to production. Normalized values are also useful in benchmarking, and comparing between diverse processes, businesses or industries, and large vs. small scale production. A useful resource on normalization methods applied to environmental impacts of production, this report is helpful. "Developing and Using Production-Adjusted Measurement of Pollution Prevention"(Document # EPA/600/R-97/048),is available from the EPA at 513-569-7562.


Aggregating same-unit data is a simple addition exercise. Combining metrics with different units, in a meaningful way, however, can be more difficult. Indexing is a method to aggregate data, where individual metrics are scored or converted to a unitless scale before aggregating. Often, metrics will be weighted by degree of risk or impact before aggregating in an index.


The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) is a method of quantifying and numerically benchmarking the environmental performance of a country's policies. This index was developed from the Pilot Environmental Performance Index, first published in 2002. The EPI ranks 163 countries on 25 performance indicators tracked across ten policy categories covering both environmental public health and ecosystem vitality.

A number of New Mexico companies have met the Green Zia Environmental Excellence award, which bases its criteria on the Malcolm Baldridge Quality model. Applicants are rated on 18 different major criteria headings. The unitless scores for each critera are combined into an overall quality rating for the company.

The Oregon Water Quality Index uses readings of several different water quality metrics, from statewide streams and rivers, to calculate an index that describes river water quality in Oregon.

Currently, Walmart is developing a Sustainability Index for supplier's products, seeking to create a more transparent supply chain, drive product innovation and give customers more information to assess products’ sustainability. Their sustainability consortium is in the process of designing the how the indexed rating will be delivered to consumers, but anticipate it could take the form of a numeric score, a color code, or other.

One more example is, Endangered Ecosystems: A Status Report on America's Vanishing Habitat & Wildlife, a scientific discussion (from 1995) of risk indices used to describe ecosystem health.

Materials accounting and Mass balance

These methods have a similar premise, in that they track specific chemical or input material quantities as they move through various steps and processes at a facility. The methods are based on the principle of "conservation of mass", where total weight of inputs equals total weight of outputs. Transformations of the inputs into other product, output and waste quantities are tracked.

True mass balance requires more rigorous data collection and direct measures of quantities than materials accounting, and attempts to identify any degree of difference in the input vs. output quantities, including accumulations and losses (e.g. overspray, solvent evaporation, etc.).

Further discussion can be found in Chapter 7 of EPA's Pollution Prevention 1997: A National Progress Report; and in Tracking Toxic Substances at Industrial Facilities published by the National Academy Press.

Risk assessment

Risk assessment methodologies can be used to evaluate reductions in exposures, toxicity of materials used, and pollutants generated or released. This is often not an 'exact science' due to the relative risks of exposure amounts and different vulnerabilities of the exposed. A useful description of a risk assessment can be found at EPA's webpage Risk Assessment for Toxic Air Pollutants: A Citizen's Guide.

A rather new tool being used in assessing environmental and human health risks of chemicals, is The Green Screen, developed by Cleaner Production Action.


"Benchmarking" is a term often used for the comparison of one organization against another, or one division or facility of an organization against another. Understanding your own environmental practices and operations through measured information can assist in effective benchmarking. It offers a path to performance improvement through adoption of practices already proven to be effective, often by peak-performers and innovators. Strategies and cautions for benchmarking with respect to environmental improvement are discussed in EPA's Implementation Guide for the Code of Environmental Management Principles for Federal Agencies (CEMP) - Measurement and Improvement (Principle 5).

Integration with social and economic information

Cost savings are important in justifying and driving environmental improvement. The Washington Department of Ecology's factsheet Calculating Cost/Benefit Ratio of P2 helps determine P2 project cost savings and return on investment, and can highlight instances when costs outweigh the benefits of an environmental project.

Some voluntary standards, such as the Global Reporting Initiative's (GRI) Sustainability Reporting Guidelines on Economic, Environmental and Social Performance, require reporting of social and economic information to give an overall picture of sustainability of the reporting party.

Communicating and Presenting the Results

Some voluntary and regulatory reporting standards leave little flexibility in how information is reported. When flexibility is an option, consider the following communication tips:

  • Report or present information in a compelling manner, that tells a good story, and in terms that are meaningful to the target audience.
    • Business managers want to know whether changes will improve competitiveness and increase profits.
    • Agency managers want to be assured that programs are good investments of public dollars.
    • Technical assistance providers want to see that their efforts are leading to beneficial behavior changes.
    • Employees or citizens want to know how their participation is making a difference, and how they should conduct future efforts.
  • Orient the message(s) to drive future improvement.
  • Include "behind the scenes" or background explanations where appropriate.
    • Why is this information being measured?
    • What goals, plans or objectives are driving the measurement activities and subsequent use of the information?
    • Are goals being addressed and accomplished by actions taken as a result of the findings?
    • How were the data analyzed and results computed?
  • Use graphics - a powerful tool which offers quick, easy visual insight into what the information has to tell. Graphics are great for marketing, helping management understand the details of an operation, or non-technical audiences understand complicated environmental issues. Pictures, graphs, illustrations, statistical charts, layouts or process map, and other graphics always need a descriptive title and a short discussion of the message. Keep each graphic simple, and as self-explanatory as possible. The Energy Information Administration offers Guidelines for Statistical Graphs for des igning meaningful statistical graphs.
  • Don't forget disclaimers or contingencies if deemed necessary. This may include limitations in data collection capabilities, multiple contributing factors to environmental improvements, etc.
  • Media and public relations advise that messages to the general publich should be presented at a level that high school students can understand.
  • Integrate environmental results and successes into the annual financial report.


The Topic Hub™ is a product of the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2Rx)

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Hub Last Updated: 5/7/2013