This chart is important for both analyzing existing products and thinking in terms of new products. It is especially effective for forward thinking regarding human and environmental impacts of designs. This life cycle chart applies to the production of a physical product. The chart may need to be modified to highlight the important aspects of some products. Systems, software, and certain other products would use a different type of lifecycle chart.[Consider discussing with students how a lifecycle might look different for something such as an inventory management system, a board game, or a video game. What parts of this life cycle apply, don’t apply, or need to be added?]
The fifth stage in a product’s life cycle is end of life or disposal. When a product is no longer of use to the consumer, it is discarded. However, a product, parts of a product, or the materials composing a product can continue to be useful.[click] Most consumer products in the United States end up in landfills. [click] Some are incinerated.[click] A few consumer products are recycled. [Ask students to name some of the products that are reused or recycled (may include automobiles, tires, newspapers, plastic drink bottles, and aluminum cans).][click] In a very few cases, components of a product or the entire product are reused.
This bar chart indicates the condition of various consumer products that are discarded.[Ask students to interpret the graph and draw some conclusions. Why do most people throw away perfectly good computers, stoves, and stereos? Why do people tend to keep washing machines and vacuum cleaners until they stop function correctly?How would this impact the design of new products?]
The conventional thinking in the reduction of waste involves the three Rs – reduce, reuse, and recycle.[click] Disposal of waste and discarded products into the natural environment is the least favorable end-of-life strategy. [click] The most favored option is to reduce both the amount of materials used in production and the negative effect that the production has on the environment. This includes reducing the amount of material used, reducing the use of other resources like energy and water, and minimizing the wastes, emissions, and other releases that result from the production of the product, its use, and its maintenance.Reuse can refer to the reuse of the entire product or reuse of certain components of the product without modification. Refilling glass beverage bottles is an example of product reuse. Breaking apart a computer to harvest the rare earth magnet and using it in another product is an example of the reuse of a product component.Recycling refers to the use of materials from discarded products in new products. Recycling typically involves the use of energy to change the characteristics of the material.
Downcycling refers to a recycling process that converts waste materials into materials of lesser quality. Most recycling is downcycling because the quality of the materials is reduced.[click] An example of downcycling is recycling used office paper into toilet paper.Most plastic recycling (other than plastics manufactured for soda or water bottles) provides examples of downcycling. Reclaimed plastic is typically mixed with different plastics, resulting in plastic hybrids that are of a lesser quality. The plastic mixtures are often molded into less valuable products such as park benches and speed bumps.Aluminum recycling is also considered downcycling because in the process of recycling a can, the two different grades of aluminum used in the can (one for the walls and a different, harder alloy for the top) are melted together, resulting in a less valuable grade of aluminum.
[click] Upcycling refers to a recycling process that converts waste materials into products of better quality or of a higher environmental value without degrading the material. Upcycling is a growing trend.[click and read examples] The image shows toothbrushes upcycled into a welcome mat that reads “SMILE”.
The world faces many environmental concerns, including [click through the list as you read the following]Global climate change – greenhouse gas emissions result from energy use, land fill gases, etc.Human organism damage – development of products often result in the emission of toxins and carcinogens including the use of heavy metals, acids, solvents, and coal burning emissions.Water availability and quality – water is often used, degraded, and discharged in the life cycle of consumer products, especially for cooling and cleaning.Depletion of fossil fuels – petroleum, coal, and natural gas are used directly and/or used to produce electricity throughout the product life cycle of many products.Loss of biodiversity – many species of plants and animals have disappeared as a result of land use practices, water usage, acid disposition, and thermal pollution in part resulting from product development.Stratospheric ozone depletion – the emission of chlorofluorocarbon, hydrochlorofluorocarbon, halons, and nitrous oxides results from manufacturing processes through the use of refrigerants, cleaning methods, fluorine compounds, etc.Land use patterns – through product development land is appropriated for raw material extraction, growing bio-materials, manufacturing, and waste disposal.Depletion of non-fossil fuel resources – product development requires the use of raw materials and results in depletion of non-renewable raw materials.Acid disposition – sulfur and NOx emissions result from smelting, the burning of fossil fuels, acid leaching, and cleaning.
Ecological design is both environmentally benign and economically viable.[click] Economically Viable means that the design is competitive in the marketplace.[click] Environmentally Benign indicates that the design demonstrates obvious or measurable environmental benefits.Reproduced from Okala: Learning Ecological Design, Industrial Designers Society of America
Sustainable Design refers to design that is environmentally benign, economically viable, and socially equitable. [click] Socially Equitable indicates that the design considers all people participating in production, use, disposal, or reuse.[Consider having students discuss how individuals or groups can be affected at all stages of the product lifecycle.
Many businesses and industries have realized that it is advantageous to consider the environmental performance of their products as society becomes more aware of environmental issues. One tool that can be used to explore ways to improve environmental performance and make a product design more sustainable is Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).A life cycle analysis considers the product from cradle-to-grave. It is a tool that can be used to identify and quantify the environmental impacts of a product, process, or service. The goal of LCA is to reduce the negative impact of a product on human health and the environment. LCA looks at the interactions with the natural environment [click] which are the inputs and outputs necessary to produce the product – from harvesting raw materials to the return of all materials to the earth. [click] Inputs include the raw materials, natural resources, chemicals and solvents, and energy needed to produce the product. [click] The outputs include waterborne wastes, atmospheric emissions, solid wastes, and other releases.Once the relevant energy and material inputs and environmental releases are identified, the potential environmental impacts of each can be evaluated.
[click] A life cycle assessment typically includes four components:[click] The goal definition and scoping involves defining and describing the product process or activity. [click]An inventory analysis identifies and quantifies energy, water, and materials usage (referred to as inputs) and environmental releases (referred to as outputs).[click] An impact assessment evaluates the potential human and ecological effects of inputs and outputs.[click] Interpretation involves evaluating the results of the inventory analysis and impacts assessment to help select the product, process, or service that results in the least impact on the environment or to provide ideas for product improvement.
A common practice used to help trace the major input and output paths is to develop flow diagrams. For each process or stage, the inputs [click] are identified and traced to the appropriate outputs [click]. In order to complete a flow diagram, data such as a bill of materials, list of manufacturing processes, distribution logistics, and end of life characteristics are needed.In the Life Cycle Analysis activity, your team will create a flow diagram for each of the five major stages of the product life cycle.
A simplified method of LCA involves identifying the major impacts at each of the five major life cycle stages. This matrix shows a broad category of input or output at the top of each column and the major life cycle stages as row headers. Typically the impact of each input and output would be scored for each of the five stages. [click] A common scoring scheme would be to assign a relative score from 0 to 4 . A zero would be assigned for the worst impact caused by blatantly poor practices that raise significant environmental issues. A four would indicate excellent environmental practices with no serious environmental concerns.However, this matrix can also be used to simply document the inputs and outputs at each stage of a product’s life cycle.
This example represents a possible Inventory Analysis for a desktop computer and CRT monitor.[click] As an example, the material choice for premanufacture might be assigned a zero because few recycled materials are used. Many toxic chemicals are used (such as lead and cadmium in batteries, mercury in some switches, and brominated flame retardants in plastics).[click] The rating for liquid waste during the product delivery stage might be assigned a 4 because little or no liquid waste is created during packaging, transportation, or installation.[click] However, there are a significant amount of gaseous releases during the product delivery stage, which might earn a rating of 2.[click] Energy use during the Use phase may be assigned a 1 since the energy demand for a computer is high to very high during this phase.However, this matrix can also be used to simply document the inputs and outputs at each stage of a product’s life cycle.
Product Life Cycle Assessment
Life Cycle Flowchart Adapted from Industrial Designers Society of America - Okala
Premanufacture• Raw Material Extraction• Material Processing
Premanufacture: Raw Material Extraction• All consumer products depend on the natural environment for raw materials• Some form of energy is required• Typically produces large quantities of outputs (wastes and emissions)
Premanufacture: Material Processing• Often material-intensive
Premanufacture: Material Processing• Often material-intensive• Energy is requiredMaterial Energy Cost Extracted from (MJ/kg)Titanium 900 - 940 Ore concentrateAluminum 227-342 BauxitePolystyrene 87 - 115 Crude oilPolyvinylchloride (PVC) 85 - 107 Crude oilPaper 25-50 Standing timberGlass 18-35 Sand, etc.Wood 3–7 Standing timber
Premanufacture: Material Processing• Often material-intensive• Energy is required• Processing often produces wastes and other outputs – Example: Aluminum refining waste products • Red mud • Greenhouse gases • SPL – spent potlining
Use• Products remain at this stage as long as they are usable or repairable• Powered consumer products have a large environmental impact
End of Life/Disposal• Land Fill• Incineration• Material Recycling• Component Reuse• Product Reuse
Why We Throw Things AwayDo consumers throw something away because it has stoppedworking or because they want something different? Industrial Designers Society of America - Okala
End of Life most Reducefavorable Reuse Recycle least Disposalfavorable
Recycling• Downcycling – Converting waste materials into new materials of lesser quality and reduced functionality • Reduces consumption of raw materials • Reduces energy usage • Reduces the volume of waste material • Reduces air and water pollution – Examples: • Office paper to toilet paper • Plastic recycling • Aluminum recycling
Recycling• Upcycling – Converting waste materials into new products of better quality or higher environmental value without degrading the material • Reduces consumption of raw materials • Reduces energy usage • Reduces the volume of waste material • Reduces air and water pollution – Examples: • Tires to steps • Drink pouches into backpacks • Skateboards into bookcases • Fire hoses into belts, bags, and cufflinks • Old clothes into quilts and blankets • Toothbrushes into a welcome mat
Environmental Concerns• Global climate change• Human organism damage• Water availability and quality• Depletion of fossil fuels• Loss of biodiversity• Stratospheric ozone depletion• Land use patterns• Depletion of non-fossil fuel resources• Acid disposition
Ecological Design A method of design that is environmentally benign and economically viable. ECOLOGICAL DESIGN Economically Environmentally Viable BenignEnvironmentally Benign: Designcompetitive in the marketplace.Economically Viable: Design is demonstrates obvious ormeasurable environmental benefits. Industrial Designers Society of America - Okala
Sustainable Design Design that is environmentally benign, economically viable, and socially equitable. Socially Equitable: Design considers all Socially Equitable people participating in production, use, disposa , or reuse. SUSTAINABLE DESIGNEconomically EnvironmentallyViable Benign Industrial Designers Society of America - Okala
Design for Sustainability • Sustainable product design involves . . . – Minimizing the consumption of materials, energy, and water – AvoidingSocial or hazardous materials and processes toxic Equity – Recycling or reusing materials SUSTAINABLE DESIGNEconomically EnvironmentallyViable Benign
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)• Identifies and quantifies the environmental INPUTS OUTPUTS impacts of a product, process, or service Natural Environment
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) • A technique used to assess the environmental aspects and potential impacts of a product, process, or service throughout the life of a product • LCA includes: – Goal definition and scoping – Inventory analysis of inputs and outputs – Environmental impacts assessment SUSTAINABLE – DESIGN InterpretationEconomically EnvironmentallyViable Benign
Product Life Cycle Flow Diagram Electricity Chemicals Water Solvents Fossil Fuels Biological AgentsRaw Material Finished Components Parts PROCESS Finished PartsComponents Hazardous Material Outputs Non-hazardous Outputs Liquid Gaseous Solid
Image ResourcesIndustrial Designers Society of America. (2009). Okala: Learning ecological design. Phoenix, AZMicrosoft, Inc. (n.d.). Clip art. Retrieved from http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/clipart/default.aspx
ResourcesGutowski, T. G. Design and manufacturing for the environment. (2004). Retrieved from http://web.mit.edu/ebm/www/Publications/Gutowski%20Mech%20En g%20Handbook%20Ch%20Dec%206%2020041.pdfScientific Applications International Corporation. (2006). Life cycle assessment: Principles and practice. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/nrmrl/lcaccess/lca101.html.