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Integrated Metrics for Improving the Life Cycle Approach to Assessing Product System Sustainability
Ingwersen, W., H. Cabezas, A. Weisbrod, T. Eason, B. Demeke, Cissy Ma, T. Hawkins, S. Lee, J. Bare, AND M. Ceja. Integrated Metrics for Improving the Life Cycle Approach to Assessing Product System Sustainability. Sustainability. MDPI AG, Basel, Switzerland, 6(3):1386-1413, (2014).
Life cycle approaches are critical for identifying and managing to reduce burdens in the sustainability of product systems. While these methods can indicate potential environmental impacts of a product, current Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methods fail to integrate the multiple impacts of a system into unified measures of social, economic or environmental performance. Integrated metrics that combine multiple aspects of system performance based on a common scientific or economic principle have proven to be valuable for sustainability evaluation. In this work, we propose methods of adapting four integrated metrics for use with LCAs of product systems: ecological footprint, emergy, green net value added, and Fisher information. These metrics provide information on the full product system in land, energy, monetary equivalents, and as a unitless information index; each bundled with one or more indicators for reporting. When used together and for relative comparison, integrated metrics provide a more holistic perspective and closer approximations of what is sustainable than individual impact indicators. These integrated metrics are recommended for use in combination with traditional indicators used in LCA. Future work will test and demonstrate the value of using these integrated metrics and combinations to assess product system sustainability.
This product was originally developed in the context of the ACE program for application to biofuels, but was improved in the context of the CSS 5.2.4 on developing tools for sustainable supply chain design. Within ORD, this paper lays a foundation for using integrated metrics with LCA that will feed into a number of RAP tasks, including work on sustainable supply chain design with P&G (CSS 5.2.4) and evaluation of municipal water system management (SSWR 5.1A), and future work in SHC. The integrated metrics as described here will expand the power of LCA to inform sustianability decision making beyond just as assessment of potential environmental impact. It will potentially influence other long-term work related to sustainability indicator development and life cycle approaches, and therefore the product will also be delivered to other ORD researchers involved in sustainability indicator development.
Record Details:Record Type: DOCUMENT (JOURNAL/PEER REVIEWED JOURNAL)
Organization:U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
NATIONAL RISK MANAGEMENT RESEARCH LABORATORY
SUSTAINABLE TECHNOLOGY DIVISION
SYSTEMS ANALYSIS BRANCH