Information about Life Cycle Assessment, S-ROI and Sustainability
Case Studies, Journal Articles, White Papers and more
EarthShift Global has performed hundreds of life cycle assessments and published case studies, white papers, and journal articles.
We've presented a sample of these resources below. If you are interested in more information on a particular topic, please contact us - we have a vast store of additional case studies and resources that may be exactly what you are looking for.
Biofine/NORA Study on GHG Emissions of Biomass-based Ethyl Levulinate
Greenhouse Gas Analysis of Biomass-based Ethyl Levulinate for Residential Heating (PDF)
Biofine Developments Northeast (Biofine) has developed an advanced biofuel derived from lignocellulosic biomass, ethyl levulinate, that has potential application as a low-carbon heating fuel. This study was conducted by EarthShift Global for the National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA) and Biofine. This study and report were prepared according to ISO (2005; 2006) guidelines for a screening level LCA to provide information for discussions with regulators and municipal planners. The study focuses only on greenhouse gas emissions (a single impact category), does not involve a comparative assessment and has been conducted for public disclosure, thus has been critically reviewed.
Becton Dickinson ecoFinity Life Cycle Solution
Hospital Sustainability Poster (PDF), LCA Report, Hospital Waste Disposal (PDF)
BD ecoFinity® Life Cycle Solution Environmental Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) for acute care facilities seeking to reduce their environmental footprint, the BD ecoFinity Life Cycle Solution is the environmentally preferable disposal solution for single-use medical sharps, such as hypodermic needles and syringes. By implementing BD ecoFinity, hospitals can continue to realize the clinical advantages of BD's best-in-class single-use medical devices, while reducing the environmental impact of medication delivery.
nPulpTM Paper Packaging — YFY Group in China uses Green Chemistry to Address Air Quality
A Comparative LCA of nPulp and Molded Paper Packaging Summary Report (PDF)
China's rapidly growing population and industry are leading to increased air pollution and dire health and economic impacts with global implications. A significant contributor to these issues is the standard local practice of burning straw residue from crops such as wheat and rice. In response to this alarming situation, YFY Group developed nPulp, a bio-based pulp product that utilizes straw waste to produce products such as paper, corrugated cardboard, and molded pulp packaging. The new breakthrough enzymatic process not only reduces harmful air emissions, but it also creates a market for what was once a waste product, providing an additional source of income for rural farmers.
Algae Biodiesel LCA Report
Algae Biodiesel Life Cycle Assessment Using Current Commercial Data (PDF)
Article for The Journal of Environmental Management, Elsevier
Autotrophic microalgae represent a potential feedstock for transportation fuels that might produce lower greenhouse gas emissions and provide similar or lower net energy ratios (NERs) (energy in/energy out) when compared to petroleum diesel or other biodiesels. But life cycle assessment (LCA) studies based on laboratory-scale or theoretical data have shown mixed results. We attempt to bridge the gap between laboratory-scale and larger scale biodiesel production by using cultivation and harvesting data from a commercial algae producer and compare that with a hypothetical scaled-up facility.
Pilot Biofuels Project in Japan
Biofuels environmental and social impacts in Japan (PDF)
Pilot biofuels projects in Japan have allowed a better understanding of the actual land use, processing requirements, and economic impacts of biofuels. Through the use of Total Cost Assessment (TCA), this study looks at the costs and benefits of Japanese investments in biofuels production in order to determine whether the projects are sustainable. Total Cost Assessment allows the enumeration of uncertain events with their concurrent costs and benefits, giving a financial picture of the future of a decision that includes best case, worst case, and most probable ranges of return on investment.
Sustainability Return on Investment: A Scenario-based Multi-criteria Assessment Tool for Policy-Making
SROI Scenario based multi-criteria assessment tool (PDF)
Policymakers use various tools to make decisions, looking at impacts to businesses, communities, and the environment. As systems become more complex, the trade-offs between different social and environmental impacts make a simple decision increasingly difficult. Many researchers have proposed Multicriteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) to assess the sustainability of decisions [1-3]. The methods proposed, however, often require academic involvement to analyze the alternatives against a set of complex weighting mechanisms. Even with a goal of transdisciplinarity, the methodologies often mask the process used to arrive at the conclusion.
Sustainability Return on Investment (S-ROI) originally developed as an industry MDCA tool, provides more transparency in how weights are defined and how they are applied. Like other MDCA tools, it allows for scenario development and associated probabilities. This methodology shows promise in its ability to assess the sustainability of policy from the perspective of the environment and groups affected by the decision.
Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of Edible Vegetable Frying Oils
Authors: Valentina Prado, Jesse Daystar, Steven Pires, Michele Wallace, Lise Laurin
American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers
Abstract. Edible vegetable oils are a major source of climate change impacts and an environmental concern in the processed food industry. This study consists of a cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment (LCA) of refined U.S. cottonseed oil (CSO), global soybean oil, U.S. canola oil, and palm oil sourced from Indonesia and Malaysia. Considering the oils equivalent for deep frying, they are compared on a 1 kg of oil basis. Analysis includes sensitivity analyses for modeling allocation choices and oil mixes as well as uncertainty analysis. Results show that the cultivation phase is the main impact driver for all vegetable oils analyzed, which favors CSO (U.S.) because it is a co-product. Refined CSO (U.S.) can reduce climate change impacts by up to 83%. Overall, refined CSO (U.S.) was a top performer in six of the eight impact categories evaluated. When ranking the oils, refined CSO (U.S.) was the preferred choice. Despite being the preferred choice, there are tradeoffs with CSO, such as water scarcity. In the context of global-scale commercial frying applications, e.g., McDonald‘s daily French fry production of 9 million tons per day, switching the frying oil to refined CSO (U.S.) represents potential savings of 1,130 to 2,188 tons of CO2-eq d-1. For fast-food chains seeking to reduce their climate change impacts, refined CSO (U.S.) may be useful in frying applications. However, opportunities may exist for improvement in water use efficiency in the cultivation phase, which reinforces the need for continuous improvements in agriculture.
Cost and Environmental Impact Assessment of Stainless Steel Microscale Chemical Reactor Components Using Conventional and Additive Manufacturing Processes
Authors: Kamyar Raoufia; Karl R. Haapalaa; Tom Etheridge; Sriram Manoharana; Brian K. Paulac
Journal of Manufacturing Systems
Modular chemical process intensification improves chemical processes by reducing capital investment, operating costs, and inefficiencies of chemical production. Process intensification is achieved using microscale operations and devices with high surface-to-volume ratios. Microscale chemical device components can be produced using additive manufacturing and conventional powder metallurgy processes. The technical and environmental advantages and disadvantages of these processes have been investigated individually. However, their relative sustainability performance requires further research. The objective of this research is to characterize the economic and environmental performance of metal additive manufacturing and powder metallurgy processes for producing a 316?l stainless steel microscale chemical reactor used in dimethyl ether production. Laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) and binder jet (BJ) additive technology, and metal injection molding (MIM) were studied for producing two reactor plates for a range of market sizes. To quantify cost and environmental impacts, manufacturing process design and life cycle assessment (LCA) methods were applied, respectively. Cost analysis showed MIM has significantly lower unit costs than BJ (by 11–30 %) and LPBF (by 62–82 %) for the range of production volumes studied. However, at low production volumes, LCA results indicated MIM has greater environmental impacts than BJ and LPBF, due to consumables. As production volume increases, environmental impacts per part reduce significantly (up to 85 %) for MIM due to amortization of impacts across more products. Raw materials and utilities have little sensitivity to production volume and are the main environmental impact drivers for BJ and LPBF. Process step yield directly impacts tool count, resulting in the highest sensitivity to unit cost for the three processes. This work reports on model development and a single use case, motivating future investigation to understand process suitability for a range of part sizes and geometries, as well as alternative production routes.
Prospective Life Cycle Assessment as a Tool for Environmentally Responsible Innovation
Authors: Zeynab Yousefzadeh; Shannon M. Lloyd
2021 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) International Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS)
Life cycle assessment (LCA), which provides a framework for assessing the potential environmental impact of technologies across their life cycle, has been identified as a potential tool for environmentally responsible innovation (RI). Traditional LCA approaches are insufficient for RI because they tend to be retrospective and underemphasize stakeholder engagement. Recent framing studies on LCA of emerging technology, which includes prospective LCA, suggest that uncertainty, data availability, methodological challenges, applicable evaluations techniques, and type of decisions supported are related to technology and market maturity. This study evaluates this framing based on two prospective LCAs of emerging technologies conducted by the authors. Uncertainty and methodological challenges were related to technology readiness. However, data availability was a challenge regardless of technology maturity, and was best addressed by engagement with technology developers and end-users. Furthermore, questions explored and evaluation techniques used were more diverse than those reported by the framing studies and were related to both analyst and stakeholder interests and technology and market maturity. While initial framing provides important guidance towards incorporating anticipation in prospective LCA, future interactions must not overlook the importance of engaging with stakeholders to guide model development and inform environmentally responsible development and innovation.
Evaluating Alternative Environmental Decision Support Matrices for Future Higg MSI Scenarios
Authors: Valentina Prado, Jesse Daystar, Michele Wallace, Steven Pires, Lise Laurin
The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
The Higg MSI is a widely used platform for the textiles and apparel industry in the support of their environmental sustainability strategies. While it provides important life cycle information, it can be difficult to interpret. Aggregated into an index as it used to be, or fragmented as of 2021, both can lead users to inefficient decision making. This article studies the problem of tradeoffs in the Higg MSI and provides recommendations going forward.
Anticipatory Life Cycle Assessment of Sol-Gel Derived Anti-Reflective Coating for Greenhouse Glass
Authors: Natayla Tsoy; Valentina Prado, Aike Wypkema, Jaco Quist, Maurice Mourad
Journal of Cleaner Production
Innovation is essential for economic growth and sustainable development. Although novel technology can bring benefits and opportunities, it may cause undesirable consequences to the environment and society. In order to prevent future ecological disadvantages, environmental analysis is carried out to estimate the impacts of a certain innovation. Environmental assessment of technologies is usually carried out when they have been already launched in the market. As a result, reorientation of the technological development towards better environmental performance in the latter stages of Research and Development (R&D) becomes more complicated. Anticipatory Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) has been developed as a framework to assess the environmental impacts of new technologies by exploring possible paths of technological development. The thesis project demonstrates the application of Anticipatory LCA for the analysis of the innovation at the early phase of R&D. The aim of the following work is to guide the Netherlands Organization of Applied Scientific Research (TNO) coating innovation technology based on LCA impact results. The novel coating is being synthesized at a laboratory scale and has a great potential to be launched in the market. The scenarios method was used to scale up the coating production process to pilot and industrial scales. The LCA results showed that the novel coating manufactured at an industrial scale would have approximately the same environmental impacts as conventional coatings in the future. In this study, the environmental impact of the implementation of the new coating was studied with the help of Sensitivity analysis. Depending on feedstock and logistics, reductions could be achieved with respect to environmental impact while implementing the same innovation.
Energy Apportionment Approach to Incentivize Environmental Improvement Investments in the Chemical Industry
Valentina Prado, Rebecca Glaspie, Randy Waymire, Lise Laurin
Journal of Cleaner Production
Energy-intensive processing industries, such as the chemical industry, face barriers when justifying clean energy investments because costs of implementation for environmental impact reductions are too high relative to the perceived benefit. One way to lower the barrier for environmental investments within these industries is to create a business case with specialty products. The problem is that specialty products represent a small fraction of overall production, and clean energy upgrades to the company’s power production are typically shared among all products, diluting the value of the new investment. To incentivize environmental impact reducing investments this study illustrates an energy apportionment approach that concentrates the environmental improvements and costs strategically to the products where the market is willing to pay for the added value. The approach is illustrated via a case of a chemical plant where two types of upgrades (natural gas or solar) are considered according to costs and climate change impact reduction.
Quantified Uncertainties in Comparative Life Cycle Assessment: What Can Be Concluded?
Angelica Mendoza Beltran, Valentina Prado, David Font Vivanco, Patrik J. G. Henriksson, Jeroen B. Guinèe, and Reinout Heijungs
Journal of Environmental Science and Technology
Interpretation of comparative Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) results can be challenging in the presence of uncertainty. To aid in interpreting such results under the goal of any comparative LCA, we aim to provide guidance to practitioners by gaining insights into uncertainty-statistics methods (USMs). We review five USMs-discernibility analyses, impact category relevance, overlap area of probability distributions, null hypothesis significance testing (NHST), and modified NHST?and provide a common notation, terminology, and calculation platform. We further cross-compare all USMs by applying them to a case study on electric cars. USMs belong to a confirmatory or an exploratory statistics branch, each serving different purposes to practitioners. The results highlight that common uncertainties and the magnitude of differences per impact are key in offering reliable insights. Common uncertainties are particularly important as disregarding them can lead to incorrect recommendations. On the basis of these considerations, we recommend the modified NHST as a confirmatory USM. We also recommend discernibility analysis as an exploratory USM along with recommendations for its improvement, as it disregards the magnitude of the differences. While further research is necessary to support our conclusions, the results and supporting material provided can help LCA practitioners in delivering a more robust basis for decision-making.
Novel Method of Sensitivity Analysis Improves the Prioritization of Research in Anticipatory Life Cycle Assessment of Emerging Technologies
Dwarakanath Ravikunmar, Thomas P. Seager, Stefano Cucurachi, Valentina Prado, and Christopher Mutel
Journal of Environmental Science and Technology
It is now common practice in environmental life cycle assessment (LCA) to conduct sensitivity analyses to identify critical parameters and prioritize further research. Typical approaches include a variety of input parameters one at a time to determine the corresponding variation in characterized midpoints or normalized and weighted endpoints. Generally, those input parameters that cause the greatest variations in output criteria are accepted as the most important subjects of further investigation. However, in comparative LCA of emerging technologies, the typical approach to sensitivity analysis may misdirect research and development (R&D) toward addressing uncertainties that are inconsequential or counterproductive. This paper presents a novel method of sensitivity analysis for a decision-driven, anticipatory LCA of three emerging photovoltaic (PV) technologies: amorphous-Si (a-Si), CdTe, and ribbon-Si. Although traditional approaches identify metal depletion as critical, a hypothetical reduction of uncertainty in metal depletion fails to improve confidence in the environmental comparison. By contrast, the novel approach directs attention toward marine eutrophication, where uncertainty reduction significantly improves decision confidence in the choice between a-Si and CdTe. The implication is that the novel method will result in better recommendations on the choice of the environmentally preferable emerging technology alternative for commercialization.
Sensitivity to Weighting in Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA)
Valentina Prado, Marco Cinelli, Sterre F. Ter Haar, Dwarakanath Ravikunmar, Reinout Heijungs, Jeroen Guinèe, Thomas P. Seager
The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
Purpose Weighting in life cycle assessment (LCA) incorporates stakeholder preferences in the decision-making process of comparative LCAs. Research efforts on this topic are concerned with deriving weights according to different principles, but few studies have evaluated the relationship between normalization and weights and their effect on single scores. We evaluate the sensitivity of aggregation methods to weights in different life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) methods to provide insight on the receptiveness of single score results to value systems.
Methods Sensitivity to weights in two LCIA methods is assessed by exploring weight spaces stochastically and evaluating the rank of alternatives via the Rank Acceptability Index (RAI). We assess two aggregation methods: a weighted sum based on externally normalized scores and a method of internal normalization based on outranking across CML-IA and ReCipE midpoint impact assessment. The RAI represents the likelihood that an alternative occupies a certain rank given all possible weight spaces, and it can be used to compare the sensitivity of final ranks to weight values in each aggregation method and LCIA. Evaluation is based on a case study of a comparative LCA of five PV technologies whose inventory is readily available in Ecoinvent.
Results and discussion Influence of weights in single scores depend on the scaling/normalization step more than the value of the weight itself. In each LCIA, aggregated results from a weighted sum with external normalization references show a higher weight insensitivity in RAI than outranking-based aggregation because, in the former, results are driven by a few dominant impact categories due to the normalization procedure. Differences in sensitivity are caused by the notable variety (up two orders of magnitude) in the scales of normalized values for the weighted sum with external normalization and intrinsic properties of the methods including compensation and a lack of accounting for mutual differences.
Conclusions Contrary to the belief that the choice of weights is decisive in the aggregation of LCIA results, in this case study, it is shown that the normalization step has the greatest influence on the results. This point holds for EU and World references in ReCiPe and CML-IA alike. Aggregation consisting of outranking generates rank orderings with a more balanced contribution of impact categories and sensitivity to weights’ values as opposed to weighted sum approaches that rely on external normalization references.
Implementation of Stochastic Multi Attribute Analysis (SMAA) in Comparative Environmental Assessments
Valentina Prado, Reinout Heijungs
Environmental Modelling and Software
The selection of an alternative based on the results of a comparative environmental assessment such as life cycle assessment (LCA), environmental input-output analysis (EIOA), or integrated assessment modeling (IAM) is challenging because most of the time there is no single best option. Most comparative cases contain trade-offs between environmental criteria, uncertainty in the performances, and multiple diverse values from decision-makers. To circumvent these challenges, a method from decision analysis, namely stochastic multi-attribute analysis (SMAA), has been proposed instead. SMAA performs aggregation that is partially compensatory (hence, closer to a strong sustainability perspective), incorporates performance uncertainty in the assessment, is free from external normalization references, and allows for uncertainties in decision-maker preferences. This paper presents a thorough introduction of SMAA for environmental decision-support, provides the mathematical fundamentals, and offers an Excel platform for easy implementation and access.
Life Cycle Assessment and Socioeconomic Evaluation of the Illicit Crop Substitution Policy in Colombia
Juanita Barrera-Ramírez, Valentina Prado, Håvar Solheim
Journal of Industrial Ecology
The peace treaty of Colombia contemplates a crop substitution policy seeking to replace coca crops with legal alternatives. Although crop substitution diverts funding of illegal activities and provides an income to farmers, it is important to understand how the change to a variety of legal crops (coffee, sugarcane, and cacao) affects the income of farmers, and whether there is an environmental advantage of a crop over another. This study applies life cycle assessment (LCA) coupled with socioeconomic indicators to two regions, Putumayo and Catatumbo, over different policy scenarios. LCA results show that a policy's success does not ensure a lower environmental impact across the board. Legal crops consume less fuel than coca crops, which reduces fuel?related impacts, but the use of fertilizer in coffee and pesticide use in sugarcane increase toxicity?related impacts. The results, however, are affected by a lack of characterization factors of agrochemicals, but once these are replaced by proxies, coca crops appear to have greater toxicity impacts. In terms of individual crops, cacao crops have a lower environmental impact than coffee and sugarcane, but it also takes the longest to harvest, which may pose a financial risk to farmers. The socio-economic analysis reveals that for Catatumbo farmers, a policy success reduces the income, whereas, for Putumayo farmers, a policy success increases income and job generation. In general, it was observed that the dynamics of the illegal supply chain vary for each region, influencing the environmental and socioeconomic outcome of the substitution policy.
Anticipatory Life Cycle Assessment for Responsible Research and Innovation
Ben A. Wender, Rider W. Foley, Troy A. Hottle, Jathan Sadowski, Valentina Prado-Lopez, Daniel A. Eisenberg, Lise Laurin & Thomas P. Seager (2014) Anticipatory life-cycle assessment for responsible research and innovation, Journal of Responsible Innovation, 1:2, 200-207, DOI: 10.1080/23299460.2014.920121
Journal of Responsible Innovation (JRI)
- Full Text in HTML: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/23299460.2014.920121
- Download Article in PDF
The goal of guiding innovation toward beneficial social and environmental outcomes – referred to in the growing literature as responsible research and innovation (RRI) – is intuitively worthwhile but lacks practicable tools for implementation.
One potentially useful tool is life-cycle assessment (LCA), which is a comprehensive framework used to evaluate the environmental impacts of products, processes, and technologies. However, LCA ineffectively promotes RRI for at least two reasons:
- Codified approaches to LCA are largely retrospective, relying heavily on data collected from mature industries with existing supply chains and
- LCA underemphasizes the importance of stakeholder engagement to inform critical modeling decisions which diminishes the social credibility and relevance of results.
LCA researchers have made piecemeal advances that address these shortcomings, yet there is no consensus regarding how to advance LCA to support RRI of emerging technologies. This paper advocates for the development of anticipatory LCA as non-predictive and inclusive of uncertainty, which can be used to explore both reasonable and extreme-case scenarios of future environmental burdens associated with emerging technology.
By identifying the most relevant uncertainties and engaging research and development decision-makers, such anticipatory methods can generate alternative research agenda and provide a practicable tool to promote environmental RRI.
A Life Cycle Assessment of Packaging Options for Contrast Media Delivery: Comparing Polymer Bottle vs. Glass Bottle (PDF)
The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, (December 2014)
This paper compares the environmental impacts of two packaging options for contrast media offered by GE Healthcare: +PLUSPAK™ polymer bottle and traditional glass bottle. The study includes all relevant life cycle stages from manufacturing to use and final disposal of the bottles and includes evaluation of a variety of end-of-life disposal scenarios. The study was performed in accordance with the international standards ISO 14040/14044, and a third-party critical review was conducted.
LCA Comparison of Flexible Packaging Printing
Hewlett Packard (HP) White Paper: Low Environmental Impact Printing with HP Indigo Digital Presses For Production of Flexible Packaging
Poster: LCA Comparison of Flexible Packaging Printing Using Three Different Methods for Short-Run Jobs
Presented at ISIE and ISSST Joint Conference
Nathan Ayer, Lise Laurin — EarthShift Global and Tom Etheridge, Mach Machikawa, Noa Falk Yogev — HP Inc.
Handling Recycling in Life Cycle Assessment
Navigating the Critical Review Process
White Paper: Navigating the Critical Review Process
The ISO critical review process for LCAs is intended to provide assurance to the study’s commissioner that the analysis was completed in compliance with the ISO guidelines for LCA. A poorly executed peer or critical review can be very costly and time consuming, so it is in your best interest to be proactive and ensure that the process runs smoothly. We provide best practices and helpful tips on how to be more strategic, avoid common pitfalls and utilize forward thinking to providing effective, ongoing communication with the review panel.
Danisco Assessed the Sustainability of Xylitol (XIVIATM)
White Paper: Production to Guide Product Development Efforts
Environmental and social impacts can occur throughout a product's life cycle. Danisco fine-tuned their approach to include Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and environmental footprinting to guide product development efforts towards reducing their impact and to provide quantitative impact data to their customers, retailers, and consumers. XIVIA is a sustainable, naturally occurring sweetener with all the sweetness of sugar but with 40% fewer calories.