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Schuerch R.,Swiss Federal Office for the Environment FOEN | Kaenzig J.,Swiss Federal Office for the Environment FOEN | Jungbluth N.,ESU services Ltd. | Nathani C.,RutterPartner
International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment | Year: 2012

The discussion forum on life cycle assessment (LCA) on September 15, 2011, aimed at summarizing recent environmentally extended input-output analysis (EE-IOA) and the combination with LCA for the computation of environmental impact of imports. Input-output tables (IOT) represent the financial flows in a country or economic regions. Extending IOT with information on emissions and resource uses allows for the analysis of environmental impacts due to production and consumption activities in a country. This instrument is called EE-IOA. It enables the analysis of total environmental impacts of countries or economic regions. The combination with trade statistics and LCAwas presented as an alternative to multiregional input-output models for determining environmental impacts of imports over the whole life cycle. The 45th LCA forum gathered several international speakers who provided a broad and qualified view on the topic. The theoretical background, results for different countries and regions, uncertainties, and possible improvement options for EE-IOAwere discussed. The following main conclusions were drawn at the end of the discussion forum: EE-IOA is a useful instrument for analyzing the total environmental impacts of countries and the main drivers of environmental impacts. As a next important step, the participants would like to see an increase in user friendliness of EEIOA combined with LCA, e.g., by harmonizing data, data formats, and classifications. © Springer-Verlag 2012.

Emmenegger M.F.,Empa - Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology | Stucki M.,ESU Services Ltd. | Hermle S.,Energy Research
International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment | Year: 2012

Introduction In the last years, the use of biomass for energy purposes has been seen as a promising option to reduce the use of nonrenewable energy sources and the emissions of fossil carbon. However, LCA studies have shown that the energetic use of biomass also causes impacts on climate change and, furthermore, that different environmental issues arise, such as land use and agricultural emissions. While biomass is renewable, it is not an unlimited resource. Its use, to whatever purpose, must therefore be well studied to promote the most efficient option with the least environmental impacts. The 47th LCA Discussion Forum gathered several national and international speakers who provided a broad and qualified view on the topic. Summary of the topics presented in DF 47 Several aspects of energetic biomass use from a range of projects financed by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE) were presented in this Discussion Forum. The first session focused on important aspects of the agricultural biogas production like the use of high energy crops or catch crops as well as the influence of plant size on the environmental performance of biogas. In the second session, other possibilities of biomass treatment like direct combustion, composting, and incineration with municipal waste were presented. Topic of the first afternoon session was the update and harmonization of biomass inventories and the resulting new assessment of biofuels. The short presentations investigated some further aspects of the LCA of bioenergy like the assessment of spatial variation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from bioenergy production in a country, the importance of indirect land use change emissions on the overall results, the assessment of alternative technologies to direct spreading of digestate or the updates of the car operation datasets in ecoinvent. Conclusions One main outcome of this Discussion Forum is that bioenergy is not environmentally friendly per se. In many cases, energetic use of biomass allows a reduction of GHG and fossil energy use. However, there is often a tradeoff with other environmental impacts linked to agricultural production like eutrophication or ecotoxicity. Methodological challenges still exist, like the assessment of direct and indirect land use change emissions and their attribution to the bioenergy production, or the influence of heavy metal flows on the bioenergy assessment. Another challenge is the implementation of a life cycle approach in certification or legislation schemes, as shown by the example of the Renewable Energy Directive of the European Union. © Springer-Verlag 2012.

Munoz I.,Unilever | Flury K.,ESU services Ltd | Jungbluth N.,ESU services Ltd | Rigarlsford G.,Unilever | And 2 more authors.
International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment | Year: 2014

Purpose: Bio-based products are often considered sustainable due to their renewable nature. However, the environmental performance of products needs to be assessed considering a life cycle perspective to get a complete picture of potential benefits and trade-offs. We present a life cycle assessment of the global commodity ethanol, produced from different feedstock and geographical origin. The aim is to understand the main drivers for environmental impacts in the production of bio-based ethanol as well as its relative performance compared to a fossil-based alternative. Methods: Ethanol production is assessed from cradle to gate; furthermore, end-of-life emissions are also included in order to allow a full comparison of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, assuming degradation of ethanol once emitted to air from household and personal care products. The functional unit is 1 kg ethanol, produced from maize grain in USA, maize stover in USA, sugarcane in North-East of Brazil and Centre-South of Brazil, and sugar beet and wheat in France. As a reference, ethanol produced from fossil ethylene in Western Europe is used. Six impact categories from the ReCiPe assessment method are considered, along with seven novel impact categories on biodiversity and ecosystem services (BES). Results and discussion: GHG emissions per kilogram bio-based ethanol range from 0.7 to 1.5 kg CO2 eq per kg ethanol and from 1.3 to 2 kg per kg if emissions at end-of-life are included. Fossil-based ethanol involves GHG emissions of 1.3 kg CO2 eq per kg from cradle-to-gate and 3.7 kg CO2 eq per kg if end-of-life is included. Maize stover in USA and sugar beet in France have the lowest impact from a GHG perspective, although when other impact categories are considered trade-offs are encountered. BES impact indicators show a clear preference for fossil-based ethanol. The sensitivity analyses showed how certain methodological choices (allocation rules, land use change accounting, land use biomes), as well as some scenario choices (sugarcane harvest method, maize drying) affect the environmental performance of bio-based ethanol. Also, the uncertainty assessment showed that results for the bio-based alternatives often overlap, making it difficult to tell whether they are significantly different. Conclusions: Bio-based ethanol appears as a preferable option from a GHG perspective, but when other impacts are considered, especially those related to land use, fossil-based ethanol is preferable. A key methodological aspect that remains to be harmonised is the quantification of land use change, which has an outstanding influence in the results, especially on GHG emissions. © 2013 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.

Nemecek T.,Institute for Sustainability science | Jungbluth N.,ESU services Ltd. | I Canals L.M.,Industry and Economics | Schenck R.,Institute for Environmental Research and Education
International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment | Year: 2016

Purpose: This article introduces the special issue “LCA of nutrition and food consumption” and 14 papers selected from the Ninth LCA Food Conference in San Francisco in October 2014. Literature overview: The scientific literature in the field of food LCA has increased more than ten times during the last 15 years. Nutrition has a high contribution to the total environmental impacts of consumption. Agricultural production often dominates the impacts, but its importance depends on the type of product, its production mode, transport, and processing. Local or domestic products reduce transports, but this advantage can be lost if the impacts of the raw material production are substantially increased. Diets containing less meat tend to be more environmentally friendly. Several studies concluded that respecting the dietary recommendations for a healthy diet would reduce the overall environmental impacts in the developed countries, although this is not a universal conclusion. Contribution of this special issue: Eight papers analyze the environmental impacts of catering and in-house food consumption and impacts on sectoral and national levels; four papers presents tools and methods to better assess the impacts of nutrition and to implement the results in practical decision-making. Finally, two contributions analyze the impacts of food waste and reduction options. Challenges for the environmental assessment of nutrition: (i) Comprehensive assessment. Most studies only analyze climate impacts, although data, methods, and tools are readily available for a more comprehensive analysis. (ii) Assessment of sustainability. The social dimension remains the weakest pillar. (iii) Data availability is still an obstacle, but significant progress has been made in recent years. (iv) Lack of harmonization of methodologies makes comparisons among studies difficult. (v) Land use. Enhanced consideration of land use impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services is required in LCA. (vi) Defining the functional unit including nutritional aspects, food security, and health needs further work. (vii) Consumer behavior. Its impacts are still little assessed. (viii) Communication of the environmental impact assessment results to stakeholders including policy-makers and consumers needs additional efforts. Research needs and outlook: (i) Development of holistic approaches for the assessment of sustainable food systems, (ii) assessment of land use related impacts and inclusion of ecosystem services, (iii) exploration of LCA results for policy support and decision-making, (iv) investigation of food consumption patterns in developing and emerging countries, and (v) harmonization of databases. © 2016 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg

Jungbluth N.,ESU services Ltd. | Busser S.,ESU services Ltd. | Frischknecht R.,ESU services Ltd. | Flury K.,ESU services Ltd. | Stucki M.,ESU services Ltd.
Journal of Cleaner Production | Year: 2012

In the recent past, several initiatives have been launched to reveal the carbon footprint of consumer products or provide other life cycle based environmental information. The presentation of environmental product information (EPI) may contribute to better informed purchase decisions. It would help to direct the attention of companies to more eco-efficient products and production processes. Yet several key aspects still need clarification. The strengths and weaknesses, the opportunities and the limits of environmental information about products have been investigated in a feasibility study in detail. This article discusses the main challenges facing the provision of meaningful information to direct consumer decisions. As a first step, we evaluate different methodological approaches towards calculating environmental information about products based on life cycle thinking. This shows that a carbon footprint might be insufficient for full environmental information and thus the use of life cycle assessment (LCA) is recommended for this purpose. The level of decision-making addressed by the approach must be considered. It describes which type of decisions is assisted. Here we recommend starting with higher levels of decision-making, i.e. calculating average impacts of product groups and addressing the general differences between these groups. Consumers would thus see the relevance of different buying decisions and could e.g. compare the environmental impacts of travelling with these of food consumption. After that, the approach may be refined and analyses carried out of individual products within a product group. The consideration of the use and end-of-life phases of products is a special issue to be defined within an EPI. These phases may be very important, depending on the type of product. However, the use phase often exhibits major variability, as it is influenced by disparate products and consumer behaviour. Furthermore, the use and final disposal of a product can only partly be influenced by the producer. We think that it is not feasible to systematically include the full life cycle in an EPI. Therefore we recommend that the environmental information should be shown for the product as it is bought in the shop (life cycle from cradle to shop). Thus, the system boundary of the environmental LCA coincides with the system boundary of the price of the product purchased. The impacts of the full life cycle could be shown additionally and separately if they are relevant for the total impact. Consequently it is necessary to show the environmental impacts relative to a functional unit. For the assessment of environmental impacts in Switzerland we suggest using the Swiss ecological scarcity method. The communication of the respective LCA results in a simplified form is another issue to consider. For simplifying communication, the environmental impacts of a product should be related to overall an environmental goal, similar to normalisation. The so-called "eco-time" use can then be applied as an understandable unit in business to consumer communication. There are several obstacles to putting life cycle based environmental information for products into practice. It is questionable whether one particular approach towards environmental product information can serve all kinds of purposes, starting from supporting comparative assertions of different brands of a product offered in a supermarket to comparing different consumption patterns of households. The approach proposed here should help to focus the attention of consumers first on the most important aspects for sustainable consumption. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Frischknecht R.,ESU Services Ltd. | Flury K.,ESU Services Ltd.
International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment | Year: 2011

Introduction: Alternative ways and means of transportation are necessary in order to reduce the environmental impacts of mobility. In the recent years, biofuels were first seen as a main option and then LCA showed also possible hazards of this development. Recently, public interest is rapidly shifting towards electromobility. Therefore it is necessary to also gain better knowledge about the environmental impacts of this technology. This includes a modelling of the pathways of the necessary increase in electricity supply and an appropriate modelling of battery manufacture. Summary of data presented: At this forum most recent results of life cycle assessment studies of electric car driving compared to driving fossil- and agro-fuelled cars were presented. The environmental performance of individual and public electric mobility was discussed in view of promising win-win strategies. Policy implications and research needs derived from current LCA work were highlighted. Conclusion: The 43rd LCA forum profited from the input of several topical experts, covering aspects such as electricity demand of electric vehicles in everyday life, marginal electricity supply mixes, design, performance and manufacture of batteries as well as resource and raw materials availability. The following main conclusions were drawn: The main areas of improvement identified during the day are: weight of the car, battery manufacture, electricity mix used to load the batteries, technological dynamics (efficiency gains) and societal dynamics (changes in mobility habits, changing status symbols). All presentations shown during the day are available for download ( www.lcaforum.ch ). © 2011 Springer-Verlag.

Doublet G.,ESU services Ltd | Jungbluth N.,ESU services Ltd
International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment | Year: 2011

The 41st discussion forum addressed different concepts of environmental product information (EPI). The goal was on the one hand to discuss EPI in a theoretical perspective, addressing issues on functional unit and use phase, LCIA methods, and comprehensiveness of environmental indicators. On the other hand, practical examples were presented to show the heterogeneity and challenges in the actual implementation of EPI in Europe and evaluate how far such case studies can be generalized in order to establish one type on environmental information for all types of products. The discussion started with three talks dedicated to Swiss perspectives on EPI, presenting expectations of the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment followed by the results of a Swiss feasibility study investigating a possible concept for EPI, and ending with discussing EPI from a psychological perspective. After three presentations considering different approaches developed in neighboring countries (France, Austria, and Italy) for providing life cycle assessment-based environmental information for products, six short presentations were held covering industry application and case studies. The following issues were addressed during the discussion: the real demand for EPI from the business, the integration of the use phase in the information provided, the questions and comparisons to be addressed with an EPI, the indicators to use in EPI, the effects of EPI on consumers, and the attitude of consumers regarding quantitative environmental indicators. © 2010 Springer-Verlag.

Flury K.,ESU services Ltd. | Jungbluth N.,ESU services Ltd.
International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment | Year: 2013

There are different ways and strategies to reduce the environmental impacts caused today. One starting point for reducing the environmental impacts of today is the private consumption. Finally, all goods and services provided in a country contribute to fulfil the needs and demands of consumers. Several national and international initiatives therefore aim for a considerable reduction of the environmental impacts of consumption patterns. The 49th LCA Discussion Forum analysed the present consumption patterns of households and their consequent environmental impacts. Based on this, potentials for a reduction of the environmental impacts were identified and discussed. In this context, the possible applications, advantages and drawbacks of the life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology were analysed. National and international speakers provided qualified insights on the topic. The 49th Discussion Forum concentrated on different aspects of sustainable consumption patterns. The focus lay on private households and the environmental impacts caused by their consumption patterns. In the first session, the idea of the "2000-Watt society" was introduced as an example of a concept of a "sustainable lifestyle". Another way of analysing the total impacts is the consumption perspective introduced in a second presentation. Based on an analysis of environmental impacts due to final demand of Swiss households, different measures for a reduction of environmental impacts were proposed and analysed. The second session examined similar activities in Germany. The short presentations covered the communication of LCA results. The third session focused on web-based eco-calculators. In the last session, two scientific inputs were given on the modelling of household consumption patterns and on the impact of rebound effects on the environmental impact of private consumption. The most important consumption domains are nutrition, mobility and energy use in households. Apart from different modelling approaches and boundary conditions, the majority of the presentations showed that today's consumption patterns in Switzerland and Germany are far away from a sustainable level. Considerable reduction measures are needed in order to reach this goal. Eco-calculators and similar tools provide an effective way to raise customer awareness. In general, it is very important to communicate LCA results in a simple, clear and transparent way. © 2012 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.

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