Updated: 6 days ago
In the first article of the Life Cycle Thinking guide, I explained in detail that everything produced goes through a series of life cycle stages, and that Life Cycle Analysis is a scientific process that evaluates the environmental impacts of a product, system or service. If you haven't read my first post, I recommend that you read it first :)
The best way to start the process of adopting any sustainability or circular economy is to start with a systems and lifecycle thinking approach. It is absolutely essential that we have a more lifecycle approach at all decision-making levels.
There are 5 Main Life Cycle Stages:
Everything produced goes through the following five main life cycle stages:
Raw material acquisition, Production, Packaging and Transport, Consumption, Disposal.
In each of these stages there are inputs and outputs, flows, loss of value and potential gains. In life cycle thinking, we use these as a basis for thinking about what should happen to get something done.
1. Raw material: Everything comes from nature at some point, so all materials can be traced back to where and how they were extracted.
2. Production: Where we take raw materials and turn them into usable base materials, products and goods.
3.Packaging and Shipping: This happens at every stage of the product life and, to be honest, is often where people assume the greatest ecological impacts occur.
4. Usage: This is the process by which we buy the product, take it home, use it, maybe wash it, maybe add extra things to it during its lifetime, and it becomes a waste when it is no longer desired, functional or trendy.
5. End of Life: The effects at the end of life will vary significantly depending on the options available and the way the product is designed.
Inputs: These are the resources required for something to happen, such as wood to grow the tree or water. There are millions of different types of inputs.
Outputs: These are things that arise from the processing of inputs, but positive and negative outcomes in nature are the intended and undesirable consequences of actions. So water coming into a factory can help break down the wood fiber of a tree to make paper, but then there is waste water contaminated with the chemicals used in the processing. Another output is wood pulp ready to be turned into paper. The same is true for energy and carbon dioxide.
Flows: Basically this is the way things in a system flow from input to output and activities that happen with it. In systems thinking, we call this stocks and flows, and it results in feedback. In life cycle thinking, it helps to think about how things go through the system needed to achieve the desired result at every stage of the product's life.
Effects: Everything that is created is something else to be changed, destroyed, transformed, etc. requires. Actions result in reactions and consequences, and we are concerned with the effects of actions in life cycle thinking.
If you decide to change your packaging from one material to another, what are the impacts over the life of the product and how do you maximize functional gain while minimizing negative effects on people, the planet, and results?
Life Cycle Analysis is a decision-making tool. When researching Life Cycle Analysis, you will definitely see terms such as cradle to cradle, cradle to gate, gate to gate. So what are these definitions?
Life Cycle Analysis studies can be grouped as "cradle to grave", "cradle to door", "cradle to cradle" and "door to door" depending on the stage of the life cycle.
"Cradle to grave" is a definition used for analysis studies covering all life cycles of a product or a process, and includes all processes from obtaining raw material ("cradle") to disposal of waste ("grave").
A product or process from "cradle to door" partially covers the life cycle, that is, the processes from the raw material acquisition ("cradle") to the stage where it is delivered to the factory ("door").
If the recycling of wastes is in question in the waste disposal stage, which is the last life cycle of the "cradle to grave" approach, this is referred to as the "cradle to cradle" approach.
“Door to door” is an approach that deals with the life cycle of a single stage of a product or process.
Life Cycle Analysis is a decision-making tool.
It recognizes that all stages of a product's life, from cradle to grave, have an impact on the environment and that these effects can be measured and compared. But an LCA study doesn't always have to cover all stages from cradle to grave. At times, the depth of work can be shortened and limited from cradle to door or door to door.
It also frequently uses Life Cycle Analysis to compare designs, products, or services that perform the same function in industry and consumers. It helps to set environmental regulations and policies, write environmental statements, benchmark, identify areas for improvement, and collect environmental data. Life Cycle Analysis encourages proactive environmental management.
In the third article of the Life Cycle Thinking Guide, Life Cycle Thinking Tools, How to Make a Life Cycle Map? I will write down tips for developing a lifecycle approach .. Stay tuned!