Regional Workshop: Lifecycle Assessment for Sustainable Materials Management
You will need Adobe Reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA's PDF page to learn more.September 19,2011
LCA Pre-recorded Webinars
By the Sustainable Technology Division of the National Risk Management Research Laboratory
of the US EPA’s Office of Research and Development
The following webinars are all available on brainshark under the LCARC user site. Additional presentations may be added at a later date. At the end of this document are links to additional LCA presentations available on the web.
Mary Ann Curran
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a standardized tool that can help us better understand the potential environmental impacts of the products we make and sell. LCA is an environmental accounting and management approach that considers all the human health and ecological impacts related to resource use and environmental releases of industrial systems from cradle to grave. Specifically, it takes a holistic view of environmental interactions that cover a range of interrelated activities, from the extraction of raw materials from the Earth and the production and distribution of energy, through the use, and reuse, and final disposal of a product. LCA is useful in developing business strategy and bench-marking an organization’s environmental performance. In this presentation, Dr. Mary Ann Curran in the Environmental Protection Agency's Research lab in Cincinnati, Ohio, provides a brief description of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology and application, with examples, to provide new users with a working knowledge of what LCA is as well as what it isn't.
LCIA – Life Cycle Impact Assessment – 41 minutes
Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA) has been developed for sustainability metrics, product design, and process design for developing increasingly sustainable products, processes, facilities, companies, and communities. The steps of LCIA include Classification, Characterization, Normalization, Grouping, and Weighting. The ISO requirements for LCIA will be discussed, including the more rigorous requirements for Comparative Assertions. A taxonomy of impacts will be presented to show the more comprehensive list of effects that might be included in an LCIA. This will be followed by a discussion of the traditional impact categories included in LCIA. Examples will be given of methodologies that characterize at the midpoint and damage level, and the advantages and disadvantages of each of these will be discussed.
Life Cycle Assessment-based Product Claims – 28 minutes
Claims about the environmental performance of products have proliferated in recent years and provide a variety of information of variable quality and legitimacy. Life cycle assessment-based claims offer a potentially superior option that is quantifiable, determined in a standardized way, and take into account the full life cycle of a product. Environmental product declarations and products carbon footprints are two existing forms of this type of label. Within the US and abroad there is significant activity to create and promote LCA-based claims, but there are numerous challenges involving their use, the practical demands of making these claims, their administration, and the consistency of the information presented. These challenges must be surmounted to fully benefit from the wealth of information that LCA can provide to consumers.
Software and Data for LCA: Practical Consideration for Data Management
and Modeling – 45 minutes
LCA software and background datasets are the infrastructure which allow an LCA to be performed efficiently. Options for background datasets and software are discussed and specifically the most widely used database options EcoInvent and GaBi and software options SimaPro, GaBi, and OpenLCA are compared.
TRACI – The Tool for the Reduction and Assessment of Chemical
and other environmental Impacts – 25 minutes
TRACI, the Tool for the Reduction and Assessment of Chemical and other environmental Impacts, has been developed for sustainability metrics, life cycle impact assessment, and product and process design impact assessment for developing increasingly sustainable products, processes, facilities, companies, and communities. TRACI allows the quantification of stressors that have potential effects, including ozone depletion, global warming, acidification, eutrophication, tropospheric ozone (smog) formation, human health criteria-related effects, human health cancer, human health noncancer, ecotoxicity, and fossil fuel depletion effects. An overview of the impact categories will be followed by examples of the use of TRACI.
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) – Data and Tools –
Mary Ann Curran
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is an environmental accounting and management approach for products, processes and activities to consider all the human health and ecological impacts related to resource use and environmental releases of industrial systems from cradle to grave. According to the ISO 14040 and 14044 standards on LCA, it is comprised of four distinct yet inter-related phases, including life cycle inventory (LCI) analysis which involves the accounting of natural resource flows (water, energy, land and raw materials) and releases to nature (air, land, and water) for a product system. These LCI data can then be interpreted through impact assessment models that have been created for use in LCAs. In this presentation, Dr. Mary Ann Curran in the Environmental Protection Agency's Research Laboratory in Cincinnati, Ohio, provides a brief overview of LCA methodology, with an emphasis on the LCI phase. She presents the various issues that are involved in modeling LCI data, such as the importance of goal and scope definition, modeling assumptions and transparency in reporting, as well as available resources for data and software tools.
A Decision Theory Approach to Sustainability Based Decision Making
– 19 minutes
With sustainability as the “true north” for EPA research, a premium is placed on the ability to make decisions under highly complex and uncertain conditions. The primary challenge is reconciling disparate criteria toward credible and defensible decisions. Making decisions on one aspect alone is challenging, when coupled with the unique intricacies of handling multiple factors inherent in sustainability, the difficulty of decision making skyrockets. There is a multitude of projects and consequently, a variety of decision analysis and support tools throughout the Agency. However, work is needed for the development of frameworks and approaches to support sustainability based decisions, development and management options, particularly in emerging fields of interest. This webinar provides a life cycle view of incorporating sustainability into decision making. It highlights the path forward to sustainability, incorporates background information on decision theory and analysis and its application within the EPA and presents key initiatives and projects related to sustainability based decision making.
An Examination of Silver Nanoparticles in Socks Using Screening-Level
Life Cycle Assessment – 35 minutes
David Meyer, Mary Ann Curran, Michael Gonzalez
Screening-level Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) can provide a quick tool to identify the life cycle hot-spots and focus research efforts to help minimize the burdens of a technology while maximizing its benefits. The use of nanoscale silver in consumer products has exploded in popularity, making it the largest nanocomponent in use. Although its use is considered beneficial because of antimicrobial effects, some attention must be given to the potential environmental impacts it could impart on the life cycle of these nanoproducts as production demands escalate. This work examines the environmental impact of including silver nanoparticles in commercially available socks using screening-level LCA. Initial results suggest washing during the use phase contributes substantially more than the manufacturing phase to the product life cycle impacts. Comparison of nanoparticles prepared by either chemical reduction, liquid flame spray, or plasma arc demonstrate how the type of manufacturing process used for the nanoscale silver can change the resulting life cycle impact of the sock product. The magnitude of this impact will depend on the type of process used to manufacture the nanoscale silver, with liquid flame spray having the most impact because of the need for large quantities of hydrogen and oxygen. Although the increased impacts for a single nanoproduct may be relatively small, the added environmental load can actually be a significant quantity when considered at the regional or global production level.
Rare Earth Metals Industry Overview – 26 minutes
Rare Earth Elements (REEs) are a group of specialty metals with unique physical, chemical and light-emitting properties that are seeing dramatic increases in demand, owing to their technological applications. The unique properties of REEs make them critical materials to many emerging technologies which are becoming increasingly commonplace in today’s society. They are essential to modern life for the part they play in assembling clean-energy technologies (i.e. hybrid vehicles, rechargeable batteries, solar panels, and wind turbines) and communications technologies (i.e. cell phones, plasma and LCD displays, laptop hard drives, computer screens, etc.). Many of these elements are also needed for the production of advanced weapons systems. The REE group is considered to include the 15 lanthanide elements: lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, promethium, neodymium, samarium, europium, gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium, holmium, erbium, thulium, ytterbium, and lutetium. The elements yttrium and scandium are also included as they have similar chemical properties, making 17 REEs in total. Currently, the U.S. imports 100 percent of its REEs from other countries, with roughly 95 percent coming from China, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. For the past several years, the supply has been relatively cheap and steady. But last year, as China was spurred by its own increased domestic demand, that began to change. According to the CRS Report to Congress, published September 30, 2010, China had cut its exports of rare earth elements from about 50,000 metric tons in 2009 to 30,000 metric tons in 2010. According to a Bloomberg news report published October 30, 2010, a July 2010 announcement by China’s Ministry of Commerce cut exports of REEs by 72 percent, to about 8,000 metric tons, for the second half of 2010. This presentation will delve into rare earth metal global production and reserves/deposits; applications; demand and supply; recycling and alternatives; and processing.
Emergy Analysis as a Sustainability Metric – 21 minutes
This presentation gives an introduction of emergy concept and an overview of emergy accounting method. The theoretical underlying features of self-organized systems are also discussed. Examples are used to show how emergy evaluation process is done. The unique benefits of emergy method supplement conventional life-cycle assessment to provide a more comprehensive whole system analysis of the environmental burdens of a production system. Emergy analysis unveils the hidden ecological cost and offers a unique tool for decision makers to balance between production, efficiency and sustainability.
Life Cycle Assessment for Biofuels – 22 minutes
A presentation based on life cycle assessment (LCA) for biofuels is given. The presentation focuses on energy and biofuels, interesting environmental aspects of biofuels, and how to do a life cycle assessment with some examples related to biofuel systems. The stages of a (biofuel) LCA are described, as are steps of LCA practice: goal and scope, inventory, impact assessment, and interpretation. Methods to complete these steps are described, with suggestions for items to consider in application to LCA and for biofuels in particular. Aspects of the expansion of biofuels in the U.S. are described, along with the potential for step change effects in other related systems.
Jane Bare is a chemical engineer with 26 years of experience in the US EPA’s Office of Research and Development. She was recently elected to the global Sustainability within Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) (SwS) steering committee which is providing input to the Rio+ 20 process. She has served as the Chair of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) Steering Committee of the Advisory Group for North America since 2010. She is a founding international expert on the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) / SETAC International Life Cycle Board which is the governing body of the UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative since 2001. She has organized and chaired three international special topic workshops on Life Cycle Impact Assessment and was involved in ISO 14040 series development. Jane developed the US EPA’s Tool for the Reduction and Assessment of Chemical and other environmental Impacts (TRACI) which is used for LCA and sustainability assessments. She has published over 40 peer reviewed publications and eight patents, and was recognized in 2006 with the US EPA’s individual Gold Medal for Exceptional Service.
Diana Bless is a staff member of Cincinnati’s National Risk Management Research Laboratory in the Office of Research and Development. She has conducted research for the prevention and clean-up of toxic/hazardous waste. Her research interests have focused on biological and passive technologies for the removal of metals in mine wastes and the ecological/health impacts of mercury and arsenic contamination in abandoned mines. She holds a BS in Chemical Engineering with a minor in Biochemical Engineering from New Mexico State University. She currently works for the Sustainable Technology Division under the Systems Analysis Branch where she is interfacing more with sustainability, green chemistry, life cycle analysis, biofuels and nanotechnology.
Mary Ann Curran
Mary Ann Curran directs the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) research program at the US EPA’s National Risk Management Research Laboratory in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her activities include the development of LCA methodology, the performance and review of life-cycle case studies, planning life-cycle workshops and conferences, and the development of a life cycle data and resources website (www.epa.gov/ORD/NRMRL/lcaccess). As a recognized, international LCA expert, Mary Ann works closely with the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC), which has been instrumental in advancing LCA awareness worldwide, and actively participates in the UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative. Mary Ann serves as the Subject Editor (Cleaner Production Tools) for the Journal of Cleaner Production and on the editorial boards of the International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, and Management of Environmental Quality, and the advisory boards of the on-line journals Sustainability and the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Mary Ann has authored and co-authored numerous papers and book chapters which address the LCA concept and its applications. She has presented EPA’s activities in LCA-related research at technical meetings across the U.S. and in Europe, South America, South Africa, Asia, and Australia. Mary Ann has been with the EPA’s Office of Research and Development since 1980. She studied Chemical Engineering at the University of Cincinnati (BSChE 1980); Environmental Management and Policy at Lund University, Lund, Sweden (MSc 1996); and earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree at Erasmus University’s International PhD program on “Cleaner Products, Cleaner Production, Industrial Ecology and Sustainability” for her thesis entitled “Development of Life Cycle Methodology: A Focus on Co-Product Allocation” (2008). Mary Ann is a Fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE).
Tarsha N. Eason is a Research Engineer working in the area of decision theory and analysis in the Sustainable Technology Division of the US Environmental Protection Agency National Risk Management Research Laboratory in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is a former EPA Federal Post-doctoral associate and previously served as the Associate Director of Operations of the Research Center for Cutting-Edge Technologies (RECCET) in Tallahassee, Florida where she managed the business functions of the Center and aided in mentoring graduate and undergraduate students on renewable energy and manufacturing research. Tarsha received her Ph.D. (2006) and M.S. (1998) in Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering and a B.S. (1996) in Electrical Engineering from the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, Florida A&M University. Her research activities and interests include sustainability based decision making, decision theory and analysis, sustainability metrics and indicators, resilience and complexity, information theory, systems engineering and renewable energy.
Dr. Hawkins’ research focuses on the application and development of environmental life cycle assessment (LCA) and input output models for environmental policy analysis. His current research is focused on the development of LCA methods for designing sustainable biofuel supply chains. He earned a BS in Physics from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1999 and a PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering and Engineering and Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in May 2007. During his PhD studies Dr. Hawkins developed a Mixed-Unit Input-Output (MUIO) Model for life cycle assessment and material flow analysis focusing on flows of cadmium, lead, nickel, and zinc. He then worked as a Researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) where he worked on the EXIOPOL Project, ‘A New Environmental Accounting Framework Using Externality Data and Input-Output Tools for Policy Analysis’, an EU-Funded effort to create a global, environmentally-extended, multiregional input-output (EE-MRIO) model for analysis of environmental impacts and external costs of production and consumption. He also contributed to two other studies, the first integrating carbon, land, and water footprinting methods within the multi-regional input-output framework conducted under the EU funded OPEN EU Project, and the second, an environmental assessment of electric vehicles funded by the Norwegian Research Council.
Dr. Wesley Ingwersen is an Environmental Engineer in the Sustainable Technology division at the EPA’s National Risk Management Research Laboratory. His research focuses on using Life Cycle Assessment and other tools for sustainable supply chain design for consumer products and biofuels. Dr. Ingwersen is particularly interested in LCA-based product claims and actively participates on the international PCR Taskforce as well as the PCR committee through the American Center for Life Cycle Assessment. He received his Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from the University of Florida in 2010 and has been a LCA certified professional since 2008.
Dr. Ma received a B.E. in Environmental Engineering from Tongji University, Shanghai, China, a MS in Environmental Science and Policy from University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering focusing on Environmental Engineering from the University of Minnesota. She then worked as a Post doctoral Research Associate with Dr. Joel Pedersen at the University of Wisconsin at Madison studying the fate and transport of infectious prion proteins in the environment. Afterwards she joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) National Exposure Research Laboratory (Athens, GA) in 2007 as a federal Post doctoral Researcher. Her work there focused on the experiments elucidating the key processes that govern nanomaterial deposition and transport in the environment, the development of process models, and the integration of process modeling with transport modeling. Dr. Ma permanently joined ORD National Risk Management Research Laboratory (Cincinnati, OH) in August 2010. Her primary research efforts are focused on applying new sustainability metrics to environmental management for sustainability. She is a part of an interdisciplinary effort to understand the interactions between ecosystems, the economy, the law, and technology, and formulate effective long-term management strategies. Dr. Ma is a registered Professional Engineer in the State of Minnesota.
Dr. David E. Meyer received his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Kentucky in 2006 as an NSF IGERT fellow. The focus of his research was the development of various nanocomposite materials for environmental separations ranging from ground water remediation to mercury removal. He has brought his knowledge of nanomaterials to the U. S. EPA as a chemical engineer working in the Systems Analysis Branch of the National Risk Management Research Laboratory within the Office of Research and Development to study the potential life cycle impacts that can be attributed to the use of nanotechnologies. The ultimate goal of his work is the creation of a comprehensive integrated decision-making framework for the development of sustainable nanotechnologies. This will require establishing a suitable system of valuation for nanomaterials relying on metrics that account for potential socioeconomical impacts in addition to traditional environmental impacts.
Ray Smith is a Chemical Engineer within the Systems Analysis Branch. He obtained his PhD in Chemical Engineering in the area of process design from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Ray has worked for the EPA for over 10 years with focus areas including the evaluation of green chemistries and technologies, chemical process design and optimization, life cycle assessment, and recycle process design for industrial ecology. He has also worked on biofuel analysis projects and is currently a lead for the Sustainable Supply Chain Design for Biofuels team. This project is analyzing various environmental impacts, indicators and sustainability metrics for biofuel supply chains from feedstock production through end use. In addition, the project considers the expansion of biofuel supply chains, different ways the infrastructure could develop, and how the form of the supply chain could influence impacts, indicators and sustainability metrics.
Powerpoint presentations exist at the following location for LCA 101 Series
and LCA Application series from 2009 and 2010. Audio is not available at this
Life Cycle Analysis and Cost Benefit Analysis: Making the Connection
– 31 minutes
With the heightened concern for environmental preservation and sustainability along with the voracious political and economic struggle over energy resources in the past decade, the need for a tool that adequately tracks both energy and emissions has never been more implored. Further, the tool should be so thorough and comprehensive that it allows decision makers the capability to glean information and utilize the analyses during Agency rule making procedures such as a Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA). This report avoids elaborating on the entire LCA process and narrows on a dialogue on the different approaches to conducting an LCA (Attributional and Consequential). Next, an extensive literature review on Consequential LCA in relation to cost-benefit assessments is conducted, followed by a summary of recent US EPA Office of Resource and Recovery (ORCR) cost-benefit analyses (CBA), and CLCA computer models and models that have the potential for use in a cost-benefit analysis are discussed. Finally, an assessment of the benefits and limitations of incorporating CLCA into CBA procedures will be presented. The chief results of the research purport more focus on utilizing a baseline LCA and then calculating the difference or “avoided impacts” as a result of a regulatory standard. For example, in a beneficial use study of coal combustion residues, EPA calculated the avoided impacts of water consumption. As a result of using fly ash in concrete, water consumption was reduced by a savings of $5.5 million in 2008. Other factors suggest that CLCA can augment the cost-benefit procedures. The method is inherently economic and it utilizes economic tools like partial equilibrium modeling, general equilibrium modeling, multi-market, multi-region partial equilibrium modeling, rebound effects, experience curves, among others. The use of these economic devices bodes well with an economic procedure such as a cost-benefit LCA. Further, the report suggests a need to create a more elaborate database, improve transparency of EPA LCAs to allow practitioners to glean the benefits of each study, and more sophisticated, organized standards for United States LCA methods and practice that can be available for the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) procedural suggestions on economic analysis such as a CBA.
Brandon Chiazza is a Master’s of Public Administration Candidate at Cornell University studying environmental economics and policy. He most recently worked with the economics and risk staff in the Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery at EPA, where he conducted research on the incorporation of Life Cycle Analysis into the Agency’s cost-benefit procedures. Brandon seeks to extend his research on Life Cycle Analysis and economics in a PhD program post- graduation in 2012 and also pursues work for the federal government with a particular interest on conducting environmental economic and risk analysis in the environmental and energy fields and furthering innovation in government economic standards. He worked for a short time in Rochester, New York as a communications specialist for Partner’s in Restorative Justice in 2009. He also graduated from Cornell with a Bachelor’s in Communication and Applied Economics and Management, where he was an active student writing for the Cornell Chronicle on economic topics, and a founder and member of the school’s Triathlon Club. His favorite activities include hiking the high peaks of the Adirondacks, fly-fishing, playing music, and cycling.