Embodied Energy – What is it?

As consumers, it’s our responsibility to make the right decisions when considering a product.  With seemingly half the items being sold today labeled as “green”, it’s hard to know what really is green.  We’ve discussed “green washing” on this blog before and how important it is to research a company’s green claims.  But another thing to consider before purchasing a product is its “embodied energy”.  Everything, the food you eat, the car you drive, the building materials of your home, have a certain amount of embodied energy.

Embodied energy (sometimes just “emergy”) is the commercial energy used in the entire lifecycle of a product, including manufacturing, mining or milling raw materials, shipping of any parts used, as well as shipping the finished product, and installation.  Even the advertisements and marketing of a product add to its embodied energy.  And at the end of the product’s life, the energy used for disassembly and deconstruction, as well as any recycling, is also part of its embodied energy. 

When we think “green”, we need to think about embodied energy.  If a product is made of recycled materials but had to be shipped from halfway across the planet, it’s not as green as it seems.  Conversely, if the product is made close to home, but the materials were hard to come by, it’s not as green.  Considering the entire life cycle of a product is more important than what the packaging tells you.

Check out Eco Friendly House and Garden for a great example of the embodied energy of locally grown grapes.

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