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[GreenYes] speaking of calculators


Are there no calculators yet that allow for product lifecycle calculations (LCA)?  It's most disheartening if true.  I remember co-authoring that first tome on how to put together (what items would be included in) multi-media impacts of product lifecycle inventories (SETAC, Smugglers Notch, 1990) before EPA even started its work on the subject.  It took 54 of us, a pretty amazing international group, a week to put this volume together and point out that it would be the first of 3 volumes (2nd being how to assess value to the items in the inventory, reducing apples, oranges and pinenuts to one common denominator, 3rd being how to retool production to reduce / eliminate product lifecycle impacts).   I do know that Susan Thorneloe at EPA has been working on this for many years.  I don't think she has been addressing reuse or prevention much, concentrating mostly on landfilling and incineration.  Not sure what she's done in recycling/composting.

Related to this, I've found a need recently for figures on upstream impacts of production.  I've heard this figure most recently to be 70% of the total, but there was no reference with that (and I suppose it varies quite a bit depending on factors like where the extraction, refining, processing, manufacturing etc take place and how efficient all these are).  The reason for the interest is to try to follow up on the piece I got published in the Gotham Gazette recently:
http://www.gothamgazette.com/article/Sustainability%20Watch/20080421/210/2500
where I pointed out that it's inaccurate to assess New York City's carbon footprint to exclude not only the environmental impacts of waste that we export out of NYC borders (which is almost 85%), but also the carbon (and all the other pollution and resources) associated with production of all the products and packaging that we import to NYC to satisfy demand and consumption.  If every municipality counted their footprint this way, small logging and mining towns, manufacturing towns, etc would have huge footprints due, almost entirely, to the demand by others outside the town.  All the transportation links between towns would not be assigned to anyone.  (I've long thought that environmental impact assessments of solid waste plans should quantify and take the impacts from collection routes and export routes into account and compare plans based primarily on export to alternative plans where much of the prevention, reuse, recycling, and composting infrastructure and activity were located in town or nearby.)   Has there been work to address these points, or is this something we need to press EPA and others to do?

Maggie Clarke, Ph.D.
www.MaggieClarkeEnvironmental.com
Environmental Scientist, Educator
mclarke@no.address
New York City



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