Archive for the ‘Sustainability’ Category

Life Cycle Thinking blog is moving.

I will continue to provide commentary about TSCA, REACH, product stewardship, sustainability, environmental marketing claims and more as part of the redesigned EHS Strategies, Inc. website.

Georjean Adams

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LCA Tools

Good quick review of available tools to do Life Cycle Assessments: http://www.linkcycle.com/comparison-of-best-life-cycle-assessment-software/ and here

I like the way Linkcycle thinks – focusing on the most strategic and biggest influencers on lifecycle impacts, rather than doing monster assessments.  They even offer a free quick review tool.

Of course, the biggest challenge of LCA is comparing apples to apples based on the best data applicable to your products and processes.


11/20/12 additional info:  Interesting review of Berkeley LMAS study comparing results of different LCA models.  It really matters what assumptions your model uses!  Paper cup rankings for 3 different models: 1, 3 and 6/6 !

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A very intense and challenging piece you might want to ponder as you think about what “sustainability” means  (hang in there for the last half of the article):

Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist by Paul Kingsnorth

Like all of us, I am a foot soldier of empire. It is the empire of Homo sapiens sapiens and it stretches from Tasmania to Baffin Island. Like all empires, it is built on expropriation and exploitation, and like all empires it dresses these things up in the language of morality and duty. When we turn wilderness over to agriculture, we speak of our duty to feed the poor. When we industrialize the wild places, we speak of our duty to stop the climate from changing. When we spear whales, we speak of our duty to science. When we raze forests, we speak of our duty to develop. We alter the atmospheric makeup of the entire world: half of us pretend it’s not happening, the other half immediately start looking for new machines that will reverse it. This is how empires work, particularly when they have started to decay. Denial, displacement, anger, fear.

The environment is the victim of this empire. But the “environment”—that distancing word, that empty concept—does not exist. It is the air, the waters, the creatures we make homeless or lifeless in flocks and legions, and it is us too. We are it; we are in it and of it, we make it and live it, we are fruit and soil and tree, and the things done to the roots and the leaves come back to us. We make ourselves slaves to make ourselves free, and when the shackles start to rub we confidently predict the emergence of new, more comfortable designs.

Kingsnorth describes the current obsession with eliminating carbon emissions as leading to “… the mass destruction of the world’s remaining wild places in order to feed the human economy” as we rush to grow crops for biofuels and wind farms.  He feels “environmentalists” have lost their way.

As I’ve blogged before – humans are part of the natural ecosystem.  It continues to evolve and change as it always has but the growing population of humans is causing change at a faster and faster rate.  The challenge is to avoid a series of crises and cataclysms and allow for gradual adaptations that preserve the ecosystem to thrive.

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Very useful guide on how to go about engaging your employees into sustainability and watch the culture change: Toward Engagement 2.0
While these case studies are from companies who “get” sustainability, there are some good suggestions for how to develop sustainability-think for all employees and yield real value for any company at any stage. Lots of resources, too.

I like their approach of encouraging you to tailor programs to what works best for your organization.  Their steps in bold with my spin on what it means.

Permit: Start with a sustainability vision and demonstrate senior management believes it.

Educate & Engage:  Communicate messages to your employees in ways that are meaningful for your organization and types of employees.

Act: Empower and recognize employees to do sustainable things.

Embed: Infiltrate sustainability into your current culture, rather than take the 2×4 approach.

Evaluate: You only know if you are improving if you measure the right things and adapt as necessary.

Every employee needs to do what they do sustainably.  Do they know what that means for your organization and do you help them to succeed?

Contact EHS Strategies, Inc. for help.

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Obama postponed the revision to the ozone standard today.  It’s the right move for now.

Everyone wants clean air.  The questions are how much it costs and who pays?  We have a convoluted accretion of decades-long regulatory mechanisms that have very high costs to companies in pollution control and compliance (that require resource reallocation away from income-generating production) and high costs to state governments (i.e., state taxpayers) to implement ozone control programs.  Postponement while we work our way through this recession is realistic.

What we really need is to redesign how we achieve pollution reduction most efficiently and move toward products and processes that are made and used sustainably.  EPA reviewing a list of 35 individual regulations will not address the fundamental structural problems we have with our media-based patchwork of laws and regulations.  If only we could start over and create a better system based on sustainability principles and work out a rational transition process to get there….

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The American Chemistry Society has launched it’s new website on sustainability: www.acs.org/sustainability.

Yours truly led development of the site as a portal for those interested in chemistry and sustainability and, in particular, to learn what the American Chemical Society and its members are doing and can do to understand and create chemical solutions sustainably.

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I agree with the article by Mark McElroy “Do LCAs Measure Up To Sustainability?”  He says they do not, because they are too narrowly focused on eco-efficiency only and ignore context.

As I’ve blogged before, sustainability should be about how we do what we do and not a collation of LCA’s.  At best LCA’s help inform decisions as we try to understand the dynamic systems of which products and users are a part.  I use the phrase “life cycle thinking” to describe how we need to recognize the potential intended and unintended consequences of our actions.  Understanding contexts and consequences.

There is no such a thing as a “sustainable product” (see comments into EPA on their proposed efforts here).  We each bear responsibilities as product stewards in how we manage a product throughout its life cycle – whatever our role might be.

McElroy also hits the mark that LCA’s and too many “sustainability” efforts focus only on environmental issues .  Probably because they are  easier to measure than social and economic impacts.

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