Minimize carbon emissions!
Do businesses do enough to minimize carbon emissions? When being asked this question, the answer is positive and negative. Positive since there are quite some initiatives to do business in a more sustainable way. Negative since a lot of these initiatives are marketing driven and not always fully implemented.
To get things moving consumers may need to awaken the conscious of their favorite manufacturers. As a matter of fact consumers may start asking soon clarity on the impact of any product on the environment.
The good news for our manufacturers and service providers is that there is already a tool to understand and limit the impact of their product which is called Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).
Life Cycle Assessment in everyday life or the circular way of thinking:
The emergence of the principles of the so-called circular economy are challenging not only the way businesses are conducting their activity, but also questions the current economical and societal model. The difficulties for the extraction, in some cases, of almost exhausted resources and the problems that generates at all levels a poor waste management strategy in many countries (landfills leaking toxic waste, creating methane and the consequent greenhouse effects) are becoming obvious. The circular economy approach is based on a closed-loop system, in which waste products at different stages can be re-introduced and feed again the process as many times as possible, generating the minimum amount of waste, and reducing resource extraction. This “circular way of thinking” in opposition to the old linear model of “extraction-production-use-waste” must be integrated at all levels in our society to be successful, if we are to move to a transition into “conscious capitalism”.
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is one of the most important tools used in sustainability programs, following the principles of the circular economy. Generally, the aim of a LCA is to evaluate the environmental performance of a process or product across all stages, from extraction of raw materials, manufacturing, processing, distribution, use and end-life. The main objective of any LCA is the optimization of resources within the evaluated system, promoting efficiency, reuse and recycling of matter and energy.
Nevertheless, LCA is still regarded as a tool to be used for large industry and big corporations in their industrial processes, even though it can be the basis for a greater awareness and better use of resources in all sectors, including citizens. As consumers, our attitude towards the products we buy follow a “linear thinking”, in which once the product has achieved its mission (and sometimes, even before that moment) we automatically tend to discard it. By adopting a “circular thinking” we help to bring the product back to the beginning of its life cycle and we participate in the creation of a more sustainable society.
Some major companies are already performing LCA on their products. As an outcome of their analysis they started integrating the up-cycling concept. A great example is Sainsbury’s, a well-known chain of supermarkets and convenience stores operating all over United Kingdom. Within the framework of Sainsbury’s 20 sustainability commitments (20×20 program, which includes not only environmental targets, but also a positive impact in their workers and the local communities), the supermarket chain decided to implement a zero-waste-to-landfill policy. One of the main objectives of Sainsbury’s is to ensure that food that is not sold, does not end up being wasted in a landfill. At the end of the day, the price of food that has not been sold but it is still suitable for sale the day after is lowered. In case it is still not sold but it is suitable for human consumption, it is donated to charitable organizations. If food conditions for human consumption are not met, these items are sent to interested parties as animal feed (farmers, zoos, etc.). In case food cannot follow any of these pathways, Sainsbury’s created a great up-cycling solution, in cooperation with Biffa. Food waste is taken to a local anaerobic digestion plant, in which biomethane is created and used to generate electricity for the local store (at Cannock), closing the loop of waste and energy. Furthermore, one of the byproducts of this process is an organic residue that can be used as fertilizer by local farmers.
The type of waste that ends up daily in landfills across the world is varied and sometimes contains highly toxic compounds (e.g. electronic waste), that can end up leaking from the landfill and contaminating underlying soil and groundwater sources. Furthermore, landfills are problematic from a climate change perspective, since they are great generators of methane (CH4), a greenhouse gas having about 21 times more warming potential than CO2. The question is, as consumers, can we engage into up-cycling in our everyday life and reduce our environmental impact?
At Eicia we develop strategies to minimize as much as possible the impact daily activities in organizations and businesses have on the environment, but we also promote and encourage individual action.
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Eicia images from De Ceuvel (top images)
Decoist.com (bottom left)