A Get-Acquainted Conversation with David Evers, EarthShift Global’s New Senior Sustainability Analyst
The newest member of EarthShift Global’s analysis team, Senior Sustainability Analyst David Evers, brings over three decades (!) of life cycle assessment experience and a strong engineering background to our organization.
We’re glad to have caught up with him early in his tenure for this brief interview; you can also read his full biography here.
You were a pretty early entrant into life cycle assessment, and sustainability in general. What motivated you back in the 1980s to do that, and how difficult was it to get the required training and find an organization where you could do that sort of work?
My start in LCA actually happened the other way around: I was working for a research and development consulting firm doing a variety of things that an introductory engineer does in a place like that. I had done some work involving modeling and computer programming. That caught the attention of a colleague who asked if I could build a model of the End of Life (EoL) of part of the packaging for a well-known consumer product so the client could understand the environmental impact (carbon footprint). Not knowing any better at the time, I said “yes,” and off to Lotus 1-2-3 I went, building models of collection, transport, landfills, and incinerators.
There was no training available at that time. I learned what I needed from technical papers on different processes, government reports and databases, and by picking the brains of other experts. This led to another of our early projects where we created some basic LCA background and training documents for use by others.
Obviously, there’s been a lot of evolution in the sustainability world since 1988. What are some of the changes that have especially impressed or encouraged you?
The biggest change to me has been expectations. In the business community today, there is a broad (though not universal) expectation that suppliers will be considering sustainability in their product and process design and their business operations. This has driven the level of detail that must now be considered: industry average information is usually not sufficient; it’s much more desirable to use company, site, or product-level information. This has in turn led to advances in tools, data, and methods.
There is also a downside. Sustainability analysts are now capable of generating lots of results. Sometimes these results present contradictory information. To a typical person trying to make a decision, having too many numbers, sometimes with unfamiliar or poorly understood units of measure, often prevents the “best” decision or even any decision from being made. So while it is great to be a sustainability analyst today and have the luxury of worrying about the 23rd decimal place, and being able to compute the answer to every interesting question that arises in your mind as you do an analysis, we need to understand and focus on what is useful. That’s different for each audience — how much detail, how many indicators, what units of measurement or comparators they understand, etc. Audiences have evolved, too, but not as fast as capabilities.
What are you most looking forward to about working with EarthShift Global?
Being an engineer, I am naturally inquisitive. LCA and sustainability provide many opportunities to learn about products, processes, and systems. EarthShift Global has clients who are different from my previous experiences in LCA and sustainability. So, I am hoping to take my experience and help clients bring new information to the decision table, while I learn about new systems.
Do you pursue any non-work-related activities you’d like to mention?
Being an engineer, I like to build things. Even more, I like to figure out how to build these things. What materials can I access? What pieces do I need? How can I fasten these pieces together? But other times I just like to follow a set of instructions, and I turn to one of the many construction toys in my basement.
I read a lot, mostly non-fiction like science, technology, and the history of science and technology. Particle physics and cosmology have caught my interest of late, as has some of the post-apocalyptic science fiction (which helps to understand what might happen if we in the sustainability sector fail).
Pete Dunn, EarthShift Global’s marketing consultant is an entrepreneurial marketing and communications strategist and writer, serving clients in academia, technology and B-to-B marketing. His journalism background includes eight years as founder, editor and publisher of WaferNews, the leading news publication for the international semiconductor manufacturing community. He specializes in creative collaboration and translating complex subjects into clear messages that inform and inspire.