Connecting ecodesign with LCA for a new generation of greener products
There is no such thing as a 'green' product. All products use materials and energy, and create waste. There is no explicit definition of what ‘green’ means. Industry groups and third-party certifiers are working on definitions and standards, but, as yet, there is no standardized set of metrics to qualify a product as ‘green.’ The best we can do is make products greener than the ones we make today!
Measure what matters. Sustainable Minds integrates on-demand, Web-based software with educational content enabling users to apply ecodesign strategies to generate innovative and greener product concepts, and use LCA to measure the potential environmental impacts of the concepts.
Ecodesign systematically incoroporates environmental considerations into the design process. Three key approaches shape the framework and practice of ecodesign:
- Life cycle thinking
- Decrease environmental impact early in the design process
- Environment as an additional design requirement
Ecodesign enables new idea generation and opportunity for innovation. The way products get made today is so broken, there are many points of intervention, which translate to opportunities for innovation. Taking a life cycle approach, you can use multiple strategies in multiple life cycle phases to improve environmental performance and leapfrog the competition.
Life cycle assessment
Life cycle assessment (LCA) is the best way to measure the relative 'green-ness' of a product. There are many ecodesign strategies, but how do you know which one(s) will make the most meaningful environmental performance improvement?
What is life cycle assessment? It is:
- a standardized procedure, ISO 14040
- structured framework in four phases
- specifies rules and requirements
- requires attention to transparent reporting
Why is LCA an integrated information tool? To prevent problem shifting to:
- other life cycle stages
- to other substances
- to other environmental problems
- to other regions or continents
- to the future
Why use an LCA method? To:
- structure the large amount of complex data
- facilitate comparisons across product alternatives
- enable benchmarking
- prioritize environmental investments
- facilitate product innovations
- inform management so they can make informed sustainability decisions.