Sustainable materials management is an approach to serving human needs by using and reusing resources most productively and sustainably throughout their life cycles, generally minimizing the amount of materials involved and all the associated environmental impacts, as defined in The Road Ahead, EPA, 2009. From a lifecycle perspective of materials and waste, upstream activities, such as extraction and production, present the largest opportunity to mitigate GHG emissions and environmental impacts, further discussed in Opportunities to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions through Materials and Land Management Practices. The full lifecycle emissions associated with waste, materials and products contributed 42% to the U.S. greenhouse gas inventory in 2006. These impacts are much larger than conventionally recognized by most GHG inventories. Materials management strategies offer diverse and powerful ways for state and local governments to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with waste, materials and products through a lifecycle and systems approach.
A 2009 Life Cycle Assessment commissioned by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality determined that tap water systems have lower energy and solid waste requirements, and the least environmental impact of the scenarios analyzed. Lifecycle Assessment of Drinking Water Systems, Oregon DEQ, 2009.