3.4 greenGoleman09.pdf - greenGoleman09 \u201cGreen\u201d Is a Mirage Daniel Goleman http\/www.danielgoleman.info\/blog\/green-is-a-mirage Excerpted from

3.4 greenGoleman09.pdf - greenGoleman09 “Green” Is a...

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greenGoleman09 “Green” Is a Mirage April 28, 2009 Daniel Goleman 2009/04/28/green-is-a-mirage/ Excerpted from Ecological Intelligence © 2009 Random House - also reprinted at Scientific American An industrial engin eer’s version of the deconstruction of stuff is called Life Cycle Assessment, or LCA, a method that allows us to systematically tear apart any manufactured item into its components and their subsidiary industrial processes, and measure with near- surgical precision their impacts on nature from the beginning of their production through their final disposal. LCAs had a prosaic start; one of the very first such studies was commissioned by Coca- Cola back in the 1960s to determine the relative merits of plastic and glass bottles and quantify the benefits of recycling. The method slowly spread to other industrial questions; by now a large and growing band of companies with national or international brands deploys the method somewhere along the way to make choices in product design or manufacturing and many governments use LCAs to regulate those industries. Life Cycle Assessment was created by a loose confederation of physicists and chemical and industrial engineers documenting the minutiae of manufacturing what materials are used and how much energy, what kinds of pollution are generated and toxins exuded, and in what amounts at each basic unit in a very long chain. In that dusty text the Riddle of the Chariot names a handful of components; today the LCA for a Mini Cooper breaks down into thousands of components like the electronic modules that regulate electrical systems. These electronic modules deconstruct like the chariot into its main parts into printed wiring board, various cables, plastics, and metals; the chain leading to each of these in turn leads to a trail of extraction, manufacture, transport, and so on. These modules run dashboard systems, regulate the radiator fan, wipers, lights, and ignition, and manage the engine and for each of these parts in turn the analysis can run into a thousand or more discrete industrial processes. In total, that petite car’s LCA entails hundreds of thousands of distinct units. My guide in this terrain is Gregory Norris, an industrial ecologist at the Harvard School of Public Health. With degrees in mechanical engineering from MIT and aerospace engineering from Purdue and several years in the air force as an astronautical engineer helping build better space structures, Norris has impeccable credentials. But he readily conce des, “For LCA you don’t need to be a rocket scientist —I know, I was one. It’s mainly data tracking. That meticulous analysis yields metrics for harmful impacts over an auto’s life cycle, from manufacture to junked car, for the raw materials consumed; energy and water depleted; photochemical ozone created; contribution to global warming; air and water toxicity; and production of hazardous wastes to name but a few. An LCA reveals that in terms of global warming effluents, for example,
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  • Glass, Life cycle assessment, LCAs, Gregory Norris

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