For this individual assignment you are asked to conduct a life-cycle assessment of a product of your choice. By using what you have learned in class and from readings about tracing a product from extraction of raw materials through to production/manufacture, distribution, use and disposal, you will outline the key environmental and social impacts of your chosen product’s life cycle. The focus of this assignment, is for you to practice life cycle thinking and develop a strategic overview of the scope of environmental and social impacts at the product level.
You should support your analysis using external secondary sources and you are expected to use a variety of information sources to find information on all the stages of your product life cycle. Please note, that you are not required to conduct detailed calculations of impact at the various stages. However, if you come across quantities and comparisons in your secondary research you are encouraged to include these to illustrate the life cycle.
Selecting your product: Ideally you should choose a product of personal interest or a consumer product you use in your own life. For example if you are interested in fashion, you might want to focus your life-cycle assessment on a t-shirt. We recommend that you pick a product that is simple and not too complex for the purpose of this exercise. Investigating a product like a car may not be manageable in the time available. We also recommend you “test” your choice by searching for information about it. There should not be any shortage of secondary sources about environmental and social impact of consumer products, however, if you are unable to find much information on your first choice, consider choosing something else.
Define the life cycle scenario for your assessment: Before you can begin your assessment you need to define each life cycle stage for the product you have chosen.
LCA and assessment: After having mapped out the life cycle you can begin to use your understanding of environmental and social responsibility to analyze and assess each life cycle stage. For example, material inputs/outputs, transportation, energy usage, waste, re-use and recycling.
Synthesis of result: The answers to your Step 3 questions can now be processed to identify key impact areas. Please note you are not expected to quantify impact but to identify issues in a qualitative way. Think creatively how you can communicate ‘impact’ this way.
Recommendations: To conclude, you are asked to brainstorm some possible solutions and provide recommendations on how we can overcome some of the identified challenges in the product’s life cycle.