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12 Estimating the Environmental Impact of Products: Life Cycle Assessment

In the end, we can be (culpably) careless in searching for possibilities of secondary use, re-selling or donating goods, or just because we try to avoid the small effort of waste selection.

12.1.9 Other Effects There are other connected phenomena like olfactory pollution by the production– consumption system, acoustic pollution and degradation of the landscape. In the case of the latter phenomenon, more than the former, it is remarkably hard to calculate the exact value of such processes.

12.2 Quantitative Methods for Estimating and Analysing Product Environmental Impact The quantitative methodologies for analysing: and estimating the environmental impact are seeking to analyse, estimate and interpret the relations between the product and the environment. For three reasons these calculations prove to be rather complex. First, it is not about the product and even less about the materials, that determine the environmental impact, but the sum of processes that occur during the life cycle. This is why it is necessary to prepare a life cycle model, from the extraction of raw materials to the disposal processes. This modelling can raise many uncertainties4. Second, even when the entire life cycle is profiled, many actual impacts of processes remain doubtful. Despite great progress otherwise, there is still a considerable lack of reliable data. Finally, understanding of the environment that surrounds us is still limited. Nature is extremely complex and intricate to model. Also, cause–effect relationships are hard to isolate. Summarily, the methodologies of life cycle analysis raise two kinds of criticisms: • Models are too complex (expensive) and not usable in industry • Methods simplify the actual situation too much and become unreliable from a scientific perspective In fact, the analysis of life cycles is always more or less about compromise between practicality and complexity. The depth of complexity is usually chosen according to the actual goal of the project.

4 We know little, for example, about user behaviours, and similarly hard to calculate are the endof-life treatments.

Design for Environmental Sustainability  

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