Assessing The Environmental Impact Of Products ? Introduction To Lifecycle Assessment
2010 marks the year in which consumers everywhere are more conscious about what they buy and how their purchases impact our planet. Consumers now demand “green” products but there is a lot of misunderstanding of how “green” a product truly is. This article provides the reader a brief introduction to “Life Cycle Assessment” or” LCA”, a tool used to understand the real environmental impact of a product. At the end of the LCA overview, the reader will be introduced to an LCA alternative that eco3P.com, the internet’s largest vendor driven eco marketplace, uses to help its vendor communicate to consumers how they identify the “greenness” of their products.
What is LCA?
LCA evaluates the environmental impact of a product from a lifecycle point of view, that is, from the birth(manufacturing) to the death(disposal, end use) of a product. LCA quantifies the environmental impact of not only the product itself, but also its manufacturing, distribution, use, and disposal. Other references to LCA are: “life cycle analysis”, “cradle to grave”, “eco-balancing”,” material flow analysis “, or “product auditing”.
In order to identify which products are truly “green” and to quantify the carbon footprint along the supply chain, a LCA must be undergone. This can be extremely complicated by taking into account every single metric such as the amount of energy used, raw material being sourced, and how much waste (solid, liquid, and gaseous) is generated. To simplify the analysis, the second generation impacts, for example the energy required to source the coal, transport the coal, and then heat the coal to create the fire used to manufacture and mould the raw material, should not be accounted for.
Consumers now demand that companies identify their products ecological footprint. This is normally communicated by using eco labels. However, in order to get an eco label from a governing body you must provide a LCA of your product. This will involve a higher overhead cost but it could also provide you with a sustainable competitive advantage over your rivals.
There are two main steps in establishing an LCA. Step 1: Describe which emissions will occur and which raw materials are used during the life of a product. This is usually referred to as the inventory step.
Emissions: Carbon Dioxide is not the only greenhouse gas that is emitted during the manufacturing process. Others include Nitrous Oxide , Methane , Hydrofluorocarbon gases, Perfluorocarbons, Sulphur Hexafluoride. Raw materials: Certain raw materials that are used are harmful in various stages of a products lifecycle. Take for example Cadmium – a bluish-white metal that is found naturally in the earth’s crust. Cadmium is a pliable metal and does not easily corrode and is normally used to replace lead in products like jewellery. However, Cadmium is highly toxic and can cause cancer. Step 2: Assess what the impacts of these emissions and raw material depletions are. This is referred to as the impact assessment step.
UNDERSTANDING BASIC LIFE CYCLE ARCHETYPES
Let’s look at furniture from a life cycle perspective. There is a relatively small impact during its use. Most of the impact is in the raw material and disposal stage. However for a domestic appliance, the impact occurs in its use mainly due to the energy consumption of the product. The furniture would be an ideal candidate to repurpose so that new raw materials do not need to be sourced, which has a large impact, and the domestic appliance would be an ideal candidate to re-engineer in the manufacturing phase to make it more energy efficient.
HOW “GREEN” IS IDENTIFIED AT ECO3P.COM
Since LCA can be tedious and expensive with no real ROI for smaller manufacturers, eco3P.com, the internet’s largest free eco marketplace, makes it easier for its vendors to list their green products using a scaled down LCA. As longs as eco3P’s vendor`s products have at least 1 green attribute, they can leverage eco3P’s platform to sell their organic, fair trade, vegan or eco-friendly products. These attributes are: The product is recyclable, energy efficient, does not emit greenhouse gas, non toxic, contains no recycled material, made from renewable resources, contains eco packaging, and is manufactured responsibly.
Although it is not a perfect system, it is a start and a right step forward to make environmentally friendly products more accessible.
About http://www.eco3P.com: eco3P provides a centralized hub for vendors giving them more exposure than their standalone sites and making it easy for eco-conscious shoppers to find products that they are looking for. Vendors set up virtual storefronts on eco3P to post their eco-products and tell shoppers about who they are and what they do to help contribute to a greener planet.
For every dollar spent on products listed by our sellers, eco3P will help conserve 10 sq2 feet of rainforest. Through our premium services we also plant trees.
Whether you are looking to buy a solar powered water fountain, an e-bike, or fair trade goods, eco3P is your eco-marketplace.
eco3P provides a centralized hub for vendors selling eco products . The virtual storefronts setup helps the vendors to attain fair trade and exposure than that achieved form their standalone site. Simplifying the searching process of eco-friendly shoppers aspiring to find products concerning organic clothing.
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