Frequent Questions about the SMM Prioritization Tools
On this page:
1. What are the SMM Prioritization Tools?
The life cycle-based Sustainable Materials Management Prioritization Tools (SMM Prioritization Tools) can serve as a starting place to help identify potential opportunities for environmental improvement in the production and consumption of goods and services. These tools are designed to help highlight potentially significant environmental issues and hotspots. This knowledge can be helpful when prioritizing actions, focusing limited human and financial resources to achieve greater overall environmental benefit and considering key industries for collaboration. The SMM Prioritization Tools should be supplemented with more detailed information for greater accuracy and prior to considering specific actions.
2. Who should use these tools?
These tools are for individuals interested in an overview of environmental issues and resource use potentially associated with the life cycle of goods and services. It would also be useful for individuals looking for potential opportunities to minimize negative human health and environmental impacts, to promote economic growth and to conserve natural capital in a way that cuts across more traditional organizational, decision and policy “silos”.
3. Do I need to be an expert in life cycle assessment to use the tools?
These tools are designed for non-experts interested in life cycle information. Helpful explanations are found in many places throughout the tools. If you are unsure about what is being viewed, hover the mouse over the unclear element or a “What’s this?” link nearby. Also, explore the in-tool tutorial located above the heatmap and/or read the User Manual for the tools. It may also be helpful to have the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) website handy to understand if a good or service of interest is aggregated within another good or service.
4. What kind of information do these tools provide, and how are they different from one another?
The SMM Prioritization Tools include:
- National Tool: The National Tool provides a life cycle perspective of environmental issues, resource use and socioeconomic information potentially associated with goods and services produced and/or consumed in the United States. This information could be of interest to government, non-governmental organizations, academic institutions and others looking for environmental improvement opportunities at a national level.
- Organizational Tool: The Organizational Tool guides a company or organization through a life cycle view of the potential environmental issues and resource use that may be typical for their sector. Socioeconomic information is not included in this tool. The Organizational Tool provides an environmental issues profile, supply chain hotspots and purchasing categories with potentially significant “embodied” issues. This information could be of interest to CEOs, procurement and sustainability professionals, small- and medium-sized organizations and others looking for environmental improvement opportunities at an organizational level.
5. What are the benefits of using these tools?
Individuals using the SMM Prioritization Tools will find helpful information for identifying potential areas of opportunity for environmental improvement. The life cycle view could reveal potentially hidden issues, which may be helpful given the complexity and global nature of supply chains. This information can help focus limited human and financial resources on more meaningful actions that may offer greater overall environmental benefit. Information derived from these tools should be supplemented with additional information for in-depth analyses. These tools and their underlying models use publicly available data, are completely transparent, openly shareable and are free to use.
6. Can I download these tools?
No, these are web-based tools and cannot be downloaded.
7. Can I input my own data into the tools?
You cannot input your data at this time.
1. What are the default settings and indicators in the National Tool?
The default settings for the National Tool are:
- Point of Consumption for the Perspective setting, and
- Consumption for the Analysis Type setting.
Note: Refer to pages 11 and 12 of User Manual for full definitions of all settings.
The default indicators for the National Tool are:
- Impact Potential indicators: Acid Rain (ACID), Freshwater Aquatic Ecotoxicity (ETOX), Eutrophication (EUTR), Greenhouse Gases (GHG), Human Health – Respiratory (HRSP), Human Health – Toxicity (HTOX), Ozone Depletion (OZON), Smog Formation (SMOG);
- Resource Use indicators: Energy (ENRG), Land (LAND), Minerals and Metals (MNRL), Water (WATR);
- Waste Generated indicators: Commercial Construction and Demolition Debris (CCDD), Commercial Municipal Solid Waste (CMSW), Commercial RCRA Hazardous Waste (CRHW); and
- Economic & Social indicators: Jobs Supported (JOBS), Value Added (VADD).
Users can change the default settings and indicators using the Analysis Settings menu above the heatmap.
2. What are the default settings and indicators in the Organizational Tool?
The Organizational Tool uses the Point of Consumption for the Perspective setting and Production for the Analysis Type setting. (Note: Refer to pages 11 and 12 of User Manual for full definitions of all settings). The default Analysis Type for the Organizational Tool is different than the default Analysis Type for the National Tool. This is because we expect the Organizational Tool to be used mostly by producers and providers of goods and services, as opposed to higher-level policymakers or NGOs that may be more interested in the impacts of consumption of those goods and services.
The default indicators for the Organizational Tool are the same as those in the National Tool, except for the Economic & Social indicators, which are not included in the Organizational Tool.
Users cannot change the settings or indicators in the Organizational Tool at this time.
3. Why can I not select all indicators at the same time?
Some indicators included in the tools represent a subset of other indicators. For example, the Human Health – Cancer (HCAN) and Human Health – Noncancer (HNCN) indicators are subsets of the Human Health – Toxicity (HTOX) indicator. Therefore, including HCAN and/or HNCN in the same analysis as HTOX would result in double-counting of potential impacts. This also applies to the Energy Use (ENRG), Renewable Energy Use (RNRG) and Nonrenewable Energy Use (NNRG) indicators.
4. Why can I not find the good or service I am interested in?
The good or service of interest may have a different name in the USEEIO model, or it may be aggregated into a broader category of goods and services. Try typing some related keywords into the search bar above the heatmap. If it still cannot be found, try typing those keywords into the search bar on the NAICS website—the names of goods and services used in the USEEIO model are usually similar to those found on the NAICS website, and the NAICS website can be useful for finding the broader category under which the good or service of interest may fall.
5. Why do I see only the Environmental Profile tab when I click on a good or service while using the Supply Chain perspective?
The Supply Chain perspective allocates potential impacts, resource use and waste generation to the spot in the economy that those issues are potentially occurring. In other words, Supply Chain perspective highlights the direct potential issues associated with each sector. The Point of Consumption (POC) perspective, on the other hand, allocates potential impacts, resource use and waste generation to the goods and services consumed by households and governments. In other words, the POC perspective highlights the direct potential issues associated with those final goods and services PLUS the indirect potential issues associated with their supply chains. Therefore, it would not make sense to allow for the examination of indirect potential issues of goods and services in the Supply Chain perspective.
6. What is a hotspot?
1. What is the underlying model and where can I find more information about it?
The SMM Prioritization Tools are user interfaces to EPA’s United States Environmentally-Extended Input-Output (USEEIO) model, which categorizes goods and services based on the list of 389 commodities included in the 2007 Input-Output tables from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), often referred to as the BEA IO accounts. The USEEIO model takes advantage of the U.S. BEA having mapped the network of relationships among businesses throughout the U.S. (from those engaged in the extraction of raw materials and resources to businesses that sell goods or services to the consumer). This network of relationships is then overlaid with environmental, resource use and socioeconomic data collected by government agencies. Associations are then drawn between goods and services and those data.
2. Why is the USEEIO model being used instead of other available input-output models?
The USEEIO model is made in-house by EPA’s Office of Research and Development. It is a comprehensive, free-to-use, transparent and openly shareable EEIO model available that uses publicly available data. The USEEIO model is built in a form that can allow EPA to update it when necessary.
3. How accurate are the modeled results?
The SMM Prioritization Tools display predicted results from the U.S. EPA’s USEEIO model. This model estimates environmental impacts, resource use and socioeconomic information using publicly-available data. The underlying detailed data are aggregated for use in the model. Thus, the level of resolution is limited to averages for a good or service classification and why the term “potential issues” is used. In most cases, information provided will need to be supplemented with more detailed information for greater accuracy and prior to considering specific actions.