“How can we fully analyze the environmental consequences of a product?”
Many new technologies such as electric vehicles market themselves as being sustainably built because they produce no emissions during operation. However, upon further inspection, we can see that these machines consume quite a lot of resources during manufacturing, putting their ecological value into question. So how can we completely analyze a material object for its environmental impact? Well, let’s use our engineering mindset to think about this. First, let’s look at the entire life process of such an object, from the resources required to manufacturing to shipment to operation and finally decomposition. Then, let’s quantify how the environment was harmed during each part of the cycle. This method is known as Life-cycle Assessment and is used by sustainably minded individuals and organizations to obtain the true environmental impact of materials. From now on, whenever you see that a company touts its product as sustainable, just keep in mind that it might be so for only one part of its entire process.