Posts Tagged ‘life cycle thinking’

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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Interesting presentation by Bresseler company in how they do quick versions of life cycle analysis in an iterative process in doing product design:  http://www.bresslergroup.com/webinar/cut-the-crap/video.php

I don’t know the company, but I like their way of thinking.

This is not unlike the product stewardship processes I’ve long supported.  See my paper on

Product Development with Life Cycle Thinking

While you are designing processes to serve customer needs, keep you eyes wide for more sustainable solutions and keep checking as you go, including after the product is out there and new information and technologies point toward even better solutions.

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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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Sustainability is about the how and not the why.  It is a how to accomplish things with minimum adverse impact now or in the future, preserving resources for continuous use and supporting life using long-range life cycle thinking.  Acting sustainably.  The “why” is to make this world a better place to live in – a world where everyone has opportunities to thrive physically, intellectually and emotionally.  A world of wonderful changes.

“Sustainable” sounds to me like a world of stasis; some perfect state of equilibrium where not much happens.  A Utopia where everyone contemplates their navel and eats soybeans.  BORING.

If you must use the term “sustainability,” think of it as a path of evolution that will meander along  forever. It’s opposite is an unsustainable world where most populations crash off a cliff and there is little life on the planet left.  I blogged before about thinking of “sustainably,” the adverb.

My “Why” is to live in a world where there’s a chance for everyone to thrive.

I say having a chance because success can’t be guaranteed.  We each have responsibilities to learn and grow and to not impede chances for others to thrive.  There will always be lazy, irresponsible, mean, selfish, bad people.   Plus, we will make mistakes.  We don’t know everything.  We can’t know everything.  Good thing – as the pursuit of knowledge is necessary to thriving intellectually.  We need to be thoughtful about the consequences to the complex systems we are part of if we do, or don’t do, something.  We need to act, but be ready to respond when things don’t go as we planned. We need to strive for success, but keep the impacts of wrong choices as small as we can and learn from mistakes.  We can’t be “precautionary” in all things or we will fail to act and fail to learn and thrive. We have to try.

Nor can we delegate acting sustainably to somebody else – the corporate Chief Sustainability Officer or CSR group (nice article by Marc Gunther.), the green team, politicians, agencies, NGOs, etc.   Each of us is part of the environmental, economic and social that make up our world.  Our actions matter.

Why? We want ourselves and our progeny to thrive.  How do we make that happen?  By using “life cycle thinking” – acting “sustainably” – in everything we do.

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Current and recent events and articles:

January 22, 2013  Once again I’m teaching “Regulations and Corporate Environmental Management” at the University of Minnesota Spring Smester (ESPM 3602/5602 MGMT 3602).  My goal is to expose students to the power and frustration of public rulemaking in the environmental arena and how corporations cope.

January 18, 2013, article in MA Insider: “Greening Your Supply Chain.”

November 15 and 17, 2011 Dept of Commerce, US Commercial Service webinar “EU REACH – What You Should be Doing.”   I spoke on the 17th on “Protecting Your Supply Chain.”

August 18, 2011 Spoke on “Greening Your Supply Chain” for the Environmental Initiative’s Business & Environment Session.  Slides here.

August 17 and June 15, 2011 Minnesota Trade Office Updates of EU WEEE and RoHS Recasts and REACH Regulation  I focus on REACH article requirements.

March 21, 2011 PDMA (Product Development and Management Association) talk on “Opportunities and Challenges: Making it ‘GREEN‘”

March 29, 2011 Filter Manufacturers Council presentation in Chicago on chemical regulatory and customer pressures.

April 14, 2011 TSCA Overview for the Minnesota chapter of Certified Hazardous Materials Managers training class.

I spoke at the I spoke at the Minnesota Green Chemistry Forum’s “Adding Value Through Green Chemistry” conference January 7, 2011, on the topic of environmental marketing claims opportunities and challenges for companies.

Past Events and Articles

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Nice article in Minneapolis StarTribune: Is sustainability sustainable? by Greg Breining, June 12, 2011.

I just can’t get comfortable with the term “sustainable.”  I’ve blogged about it many times, starting in 2007 with The Meaning of “Sustainable.”  Proponents of sustainability seem to be be fantasizing about some utopia that could exist if we just quit consuming so much stuff, having so many babies and begin (return to?) living a subsistence life in blissful contemplation of the wonders of nature.  Get real!

I do believe we can be smarter about our choices and try to discover ways to do whatever we need to do with less adverse impacts through the practice of life cycle thinking. But I don’t want to live in a world of stasis where there is no change; i.e., in a “sustainable” world.  Complexity and evolutionary change is what Life is about.  Adapting, being resilient and constantly learning how to thrive economically, socially and intellectually is being human.  Simplistic sustainability metrics-of-the-day* aren’t sustainable.  And we will never have perfect information to know exactly what is “right” to do.  Good thing: that’s what makes life challenging and fun!

* Nice companion opinion by Robert Bryce on “All energy comes with a cost” that argues “renewable” energy isn’t necessarily sustainable or desirable.

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