Products, like organisms, have a life, during the course of which they interact with their environment. Their environment is also ours; if the interaction is a damaging one, it diminishes the quality of life of all who share it.
Life-cycle assessment is the study and analysis of this interaction, quantifying the resources consumed and the waste emitted. It is holistic, spanning the entire life from the creation of the materials through the manufacture of the product, its use, and its subsequent disposal. Although
standards now prescribe procedures for doing this, they remain vague, allowing a degree of subjectivity. Implementing them requires skill and experience, and it requires access to much detail, making a full LCA an expensive and time-consuming proposition and one that, in its present form, delivers output that is not helpful to designers.
No surprise. The technique of LCA is relatively new and is still evolving. The framework prescribed by the ISO is not well adapted to current needs. The way forward is to adopt a less precise but much simpler approach, limiting the assessment to key aspects of the interaction to streamline it. The matrix method, of which there are many variants, assigns a ranking for each impact category in each phase of life, summing the rankings to get an eco-impact rating. Another approach, better adapted to guiding material choice, is to limit the impact categories to one resource—energy—and one emission—CO2—auditing designs or products for their demands on both. Provided the resolution of the audit is sufficient to draw meaningful conclusions, the results can guide the strategy for material selection or substitution.
The chapter ends by summarizing a strategy, one that is developed more fully in the chapters that follow. The appendix contains a brief review of current software to help with life-cycle assessment.
3.5 Further reading
Aggregain, The Waste and Resources Action Program (WRAP), www. wrap. org. UK, 2007, ISBN 1-84405-268-0. (Data and an Excel-based tool to calculate energy and carbon footprint of recycled road-bed materials.)
Allwood, J. M., Laursen, S. E., de Rodriguez, C. M. and Bocken, N. M.P (2006), "Well dressed? The present and future sustainability of clothing and textiles in the United Kingdom", University of Cambridge, Institute for Manufacturing. ISBN 1-902546-52-0. (An analysis of the energy and environmental impact associated with the clothing industry.)
Baxter Sustainability Report, 2007, http://sustainability. baxter. com/product_ responsibility/materials_use. html. (Analysis of end of life.)
Boustead Model 5, Boustead Consulting, 2007, www. boustead-consulting. co. uk.
(An established life-cycle assessment tool.)
Eco-indicator (1999) PRe Consultants, Printerweg 18, 3821 AD Amersfoort, The Netherlands (www. pre. nl/eco-indicator 99/eco-indicator_99.htm)
EPS, The EPS enviro-accounting method: an application of environmental accounting principles for evaluation and valuation in product design, Report B1080, IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, by B. Steen and S. O. Ryding, 1992.
EU Directive on Energy Using Products, Directive 2005/32/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of July 6, 2005, establishing a framework for the setting of ecodesign requirements for energy-using products, and amending
Council Directive 92/42/EEC and Directives 96/57/EC and 2000/55/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, 1995. (One of several EU Directives relating to the role of materials in product design.)
GaBi, PE International, 2008, www. gabi-software. com. (GaBi is a software tool for product assessment to comply with European legislation.)
Goedkoop, M., Effting, S., and M. Collignon, The eco-indicator 99: a damage – oriented method for life cycle impact assessment, manual for designers, April 14, 2000, www. pre. nl. (An introduction to eco-indicators, a technique for rolling all the damaging aspects of material production into a single number.)
Graedel, TE. and Allenby, B. R. (2003), "Industrial ecology", 2nd edition, Prentice Hall. (An established treatise on industrial ecology.)
Graedel, TE. (1998) Streamlined life-cycle assessment, Prentice Hall, ISBN 0-13-607425-1. (Graedel is the father of streamlined LCA methods. The first half of this book introduces LCA methods and their difficulties. The second half develops his streamlined method with case studies and exercises. The appendix details protocols for informing assessment decision matrices.)
GREET, Argonne National Laboratory and the U. S. Department of Transport, 2007, www. transportation. anl. gov/. (Software for analyzing vehicle energy use and emissions.)
Guidice, F., La Rosa, G. and Risitano, A. (2006), "Product design for the environment", CRC/Taylor and Francis. ISBN 0-8493-2722-9. (A well-balanced review of current thinking on ecodesign.)
Heijungs, R. (Ed.) (1992), "Environmental life-cycle assessment of products: background and guide", Netherlands Agency for Energy and Environment.
Idemat Software version 1.0.1 (1998), "Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering", Delft University of Technology. (An LCA tool developed by the University of Delft, Holland.)
ISO 14040, (1998), "Environmental management: life-cycle assessment", Principles and framework.
ISO 14041, (1998), "Goal and scope definition and inventory analysis".
ISO 14042, (2000), "Life-cycle impact assessment".
ISO 14043 (2000), "Life-cycle interpretation", International Organization for Standardization. (The set of standards defining procedures for life-cycle assessment and its interpretation.)
Kyoto Protocol, United Nations, Framework Convention on Climate Change, Document FCCC/CP1997/7/ADD.1, 1997, http://cop5.unfccc. de. (An international treaty to reduce the emissions of gases that, through the greenhouse effect, cause climate change.)
MEEUP Methodology Report, final, VHK, (2005) www. pre. nl/EUP/. (A report by the Dutch consultancy VHK commissioned by the European Union, detailing their implementation of an LCA tool designed to meet the EU Energy-Using Products directive.)
MIPS, The Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, 2008, www wupperinst. org/en/projects/topics_online/mips/index. html. (MIPS software uses an elementary measure to estimate the environmental impacts caused by a product or service.)
National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Sciences (1997),
"The industrial green game: implications for environmental design and management", National Academy Press. ISBN 978-0309-0529-48.
(A monograph describing best practices that are being used by a variety of industries in several countries to integrate environmental considerations in decision making.)
SETAC (1991), A technical framework for life-cycle assessment, Fava, J. A., Denison, R., Jones, B., Curran, M. A., Vignon, B., Selke, S., and Barnum, J., (Eds.), Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. (The meeting at which the term Life Cycle Assessment was first coined.)
SETAC (1993), Guidelines for life-cycle assessment: a code of practice, Consoli, F., Fava, J. A., Denison, R., Dickson, K., Kohin, T, and Vigon, B., (Eds.), Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. (The first formal definition of procedures for conducting an LCA.)
Todd, J. A., and Curran, M. A. Streamlined life-cycle assessment: a final report from the SETAC North America streamlined LCA workshop, Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 1999. (One of the early moves toward streamlined LCA.)