The Materials Book

42 12 Simplify Material Labels Revealing the impacts that our material needs have is an important first step toward allowing design professionals, companies, and global citizens to make informed choices. What if the life-cycle costs and embodied energy of materials were clearly communicated to make the impact of different options comparable? Currently there are many competing material labels that offer complex metrics unintelligible to many consumers. The standard nutrition labels on food packaging may provide an alternative model to consider; something similar has been proposed with the “Declare” material label. Certainly, material performance under different site and programmatic conditions is more difficult to calculate and convey than caloric values. Still, labels may provide a rough but useful measuring stick. The aim of unified labeling should be simplicity, transparency, and legibility for all consumers. What if labels were so clear that the informal sector could also be well informed about their material choices?