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Wilhelm M.,University of California at Berkeley | Hutchins M.,University of California at Berkeley | Mars C.,Arizona State University | Benoit-Norris C.,New Earth
Journal of Cleaner Production | Year: 2015

The electronics industry has been a leader in understanding how to incorporate a triple bottom line approach into their operations. However, there is only a nascent understanding of the social impacts of the life cycles of electronic products. By providing an examination of the specific case of the mobile phone life cycle, this research advances the understanding of triple bottom line sustainability in this sector and provides actionable information in the form of improvement opportunities to ameliorate social impacts. The objectives are three-fold: to identify i) the social impacts across the life cycle of mobile phones, ii) opportunities to improve those impacts and iii) potential environmental and economic impacts of implementing those improvement opportunities. This work presents a two-part framework for considering different improvement opportunities that can affect social impacts and for considering the potential environmental and economic impacts of implementing the improvement opportunities. Results of this analysis highlight both positive and negative social impacts associated with electronic products. For example, while mobile phones have improved societal connections, manufacturing mobile phones involves environmental and human exposure to harmful heavy metals. These results lead us the conclusion that there are inherent tradeoffs present in triple bottom line sustainability, but future quantification of these tradeoffs will facilitate solutions to these social impacts. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd.

New Earth | Date: 2013-01-13

Computer software that provides web-based access to applications and services through a web operating system or portal interface.

Admittedly, once radio telescopes began to make the first inroads into the invisible regions of the electromagnetic spectrum, the game changed. Today, there's no portion of that universal hum of radiation that is off-limits to ground- or space-based telescopes. But optical astronomy – the old-fashioned kind, using visible light – still reigns supreme. Today's optical astronomers are able to glean the most astonishing information from starlight. For example, with exotic calibration tools like iodine cells and laser combs, they can measure a star's speed with a precision better than one metre per second – a slow walking pace. Over time, this miniscule Doppler shift can reveal the existence of orbiting exoplanets by the wobble they induce on their parent stars. More exciting still are the possibilities offered by the coming generation of Extremely Large Telescopes, which will boast mirrors larger than 20 metres in diameter. Within the next ten years, astronomers will have the capability not only to see the distant exoplanets directly, but also to detect signatures of life in their atmospheres. The discovery of any such biomarkers would profoundly alter the way we see ourselves, and our place in space. With optical astronomy on the brink of a new golden age, it's no idle boast that the sky is, indeed, the limit. The threat to the night sky But that's the problem. In optical astronomy, the sky really is the limit. When astronomers observe celestial objects, they see them superimposed on the natural luminous background of the night sky. The Earth's rarefied upper atmosphere contributes to this, as its air molecules relax after a hard day in the sun. There's also light from sunlit dust in the solar system, together with a faint background of light from myriad distant stars and galaxies. Pushing to observe ever-fainter celestial bodies, astronomers are sometimes measuring objects whose brightness is only one percent greater than the natural night-time skyglow. So you can easily imagine what happens if the night sky is polluted by artificial light from towns, cities and industrial complexes. The faint objects simply disappear. For this reason, astronomers site their giant telescopes well away from centres of population. Australia's national observatory, for example – a A$100 million infrastructure investment – is located at Siding Spring Mountain in the Warrumbungle Range, 350km from Sydney. But due to the scattering of light by the Earth's atmosphere, remoteness is no guarantee of darkness, and from Siding Spring, the glow of Sydney can clearly be seen on the horizon. That light-scattering process turns out to be much more efficient for the blue component of light than for its red component. That's why the sky is blue; sunlight's blue constituent is very effectively scattered in all directions. But the same is true for artificial light. Light with a high blue content (think of those intense white LED headlights now seen everywhere on our roads) makes a bigger contribution to light pollution than warmer, cream-coloured light. Is this all about astronomy? No, it's not just astronomers who fall victim to light pollution. Many nocturnal animal species – principally birds and insects – are disturbed by the skyglow of cities, sometimes resulting in large numbers of fatalities. Recent studies suggest that in the US, up to a billion birds are killed each year by becoming disoriented by city lights. And the poster child of the dark-sky movement is the loggerhead turtle, whose hatchlings are confused by urban lighting as they seek the lines of surf that mark their route to a safe ocean habitat. Research shows that humans, too, can suffer debilitating effects from an excessively bright nocturnal environment, with shift workers at particular risk. The recent discovery of a third light-sensing system in the human eye (a layer of ganglion cells in front of the retina) links the secretion of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin to an absence of light. A new study suggests that while humans in the pre-industrial world probably didn't sleep any more than we do, the longer periods of darkness they experienced led to more restorative sleep. Moreover, the artificial light available to our forebears was always the orange light of a flame, rather than the daylight-mimicking lighting available today. Used at the wrong time – for example, late at night – such blue-rich illumination can seriously disrupt circadian rhythms. Perhaps the most compelling reason for taking a good look at light pollution is the cost of waste upward light, its effect on both the hip pocket and the atmosphere. Light fittings that are meant to illuminate surfaces such as roadways, sportsgrounds, parking lots and building facades often have a high upward component, sometimes putting more than 40 percent of their output into the night sky. Even the humble backyard light is frequently tilted to extend its area of coverage, causing a high proportion of its light to radiate uselessly upwards. It's estimated that in the US alone, upward light-spill from all these sources wastes some US$3.3 billion annually, with a resulting greenhouse gas emission from fossil fuels of about 21 million tonnes CO₂ equivalent. Not surprisingly, it is observatories that have led the crusade against light pollution. The peak advocacy body for good outdoor lighting - the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) – had its origins in the 1980s, when astronomers at major US observatories became alarmed by night-sky degradation. Large telescopes are major investments and need complete freedom from light pollution. But the IDA is not just for astronomers – it's for everyone. And so, the association has launched its International Dark Sky Places program, which recognises the planet's accessible, pristine skies. A handful have qualified worldwide. The IDA also acknowledges communities with "exceptional dedication to the preservation of the night sky". Our national observatory at Siding Spring is close to the beautiful Warrumbungle National Park. It is already a dark site, protected by state legislation, and an obvious candidate for Australia's first IDA-recognised Dark Sky Park. With support from local communities and the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Siding Spring Observatory is working towards that recognition. There are some in the dark sky lobby who are driven to despair by the spread of urban and industrial lighting, but my own view is more optimistic. Yes, we have cities with high levels of upward light-spill, but they are largely a product of a bygone era, when lighting was designed with no thought for the environment. Today's outdoor lighting designers are gifted with an extraordinary array of light sources, such as LEDs, that are eminently controllable in direction, colour and intensity, allowing them to create efficient, effective and elegant lighting without contaminating the night sky. A recent meeting of lighting designers at Sydney Observatory sent out a clear message – to make a city beautiful and safe, you don't need to light up absolutely everything. Astronomers and dark sky advocates have no wish to see city streetscapes turned into dim and uninteresting places. It's the direct upward light-spill that is the problem, and that can be mitigated by the use of properly shielded lighting. If it also has a low blue-content, so much the better – for both the environment and ourselves. With growing environmental awareness, there's also public support for a reduction in waste light, with its consequent greenhouse footprint. I believe the cities of the future will be less polluting than those of today in every respect – including their artificial sky-glow. The real challenge is winning the hearts and minds of everyone concerned with outdoor lighting. That's one reason why I'm so enthusiastic about the IYL – it's a great opportunity to publicise the best of modern sky-friendly lighting design. And, yes, one of the principal legacy items of this International Year of Light might, indeed, turn out to be darkness. Just enough darkness to enable all of us to reconnect with the starry skies of our marvellous country. Explore further: New Earth at night images reveal global light pollution problem

Norris C.B.,New Earth | Norris G.A.,Harvard University | Aulisio D.,University of New Hampshire
Sustainability (Switzerland) | Year: 2014

Data collection, or the inventory step, is often the most labor-intensive phase of any Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study. The S-LCA Guidelines and numerous authors have recommended generic assessment in this first phase of an S-LCA. In an effort to identify the social hotspots in the supply chains of 100 product categories during just a few months' time, adopting a streamlined approach was essential. The Social Hotspots Database system was developed by New Earth over 5 years. It includes a Global Input Output (IO) model derived from the Global Trade Analysis Project, a Worker Hours Model constructed using annual wage payments and wage rates by country and sector, and Social Theme Tables covering 22 themes within five Social Impact Categories-Labor Rights and Decent Work, Health and Safety, Human Rights, Governance and Community Impacts. The data tables identify social risks for over 100 indicators. Both the ranking of worker hour intensity and the risk levels across multiple social themes for the Country Specific Sectors (CSS) within a product category supply chain are used to calculate Social Hotspots Indexes (SHI) using an additive weighting method. The CSS with the highest SHI are highlighted as social hotspots within the supply chain of the product in question. This system was tested in seven case studies in 2011. In order to further limit the number of hotspots, a set of prioritization rules was applied. This paper will review the method implemented to study the social hotspots of the 100 product categories and provide one detailed example. Limitations of the approach and recommended research avenues will be outlined. © 2014 by the authors. licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

Pelletier N.,European Commission | Ustaoglu E.,European Commission | Benoit C.,New Earth | Norris G.,New Earth | And 3 more authors.
International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment | Year: 2016

Purpose: Social sustainability may be assessed using a variety of methods and indicators, such as the social footprint, social impact assessment, or wellbeing indices. The UNEP guidelines on social life cycle assessment (sLCA) present key elements to consider for product-level, life cycle-based social sustainability assessment. This includes guidance for the goal and scope definition, inventory, impact assessment, and interpretation phases of S-LCA. Methods for and studies of the broader scale, life cycle social dimensions of production and consumption are largely unavailable to date. The current study assesses social risks associated with trade-based consumption in EU Member States using a life cycle-based compared to a non-life cycle-based approach in order to assess the value-added of life cycle thinking and assessment in this context. Methods: Social risk refers to the potential for one or more parties to be exposed to negative social conditions that, in turn, undermine social sustainability. In order to shed light on these risks, a macro-scale analysis of the social risk profile of trade-based consumption in the EU Member States has been conducted by combining intra- and extra-territorial import statistics with country- and sector-specific social risk indicator data derived from the Social Hotspots Database. These data cover 17 social risk indicators in five thematic areas, many of which are linked with the sustainable development goals set by the recent United Nations Agenda 2030. The apparent social risk profiles of EU imports have then been assessed based on consideration of country-of-origin social risk data (non-life cycle-based approach) as compared to a life cycle-based social risk assessment which also took into account the distribution of social risk along product supply chains. The intention was to better understand how and to what extent current trade-based consumption within the EU-27 may be associated with socially unsustainable conditions domestically and abroad, and the extent to which life cycle-based consideration of social risk is necessary. Results and conclusions: The analysis confirms the importance of a life cycle-based assessment of social risks in support of policies for socially sustainable production and consumption. Moreover, the methods presented herein offer a potentially powerful decision-support methodology for policy makers wishing to better understand the magnitude and distribution of social risks associated with EU production and consumption patterns, the mitigation of which will contribute to socially sustainable development. © 2016 The Author(s)

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