MIT SEMINAR SERIES IN MANUFACTURING AND PRODUCTIVITY
Place: Room 33-116 Time: 12:00 P.M. Tuesday, March 4th, 2008
School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan
At the ‘02 World Summit, the UN called for a sustainable consumption framework, to help inform environmental and social resource management policy for the future of the planet. How might such a framework take shape? I propose that it could be guided in part by an "industrial ecosystem" model for material and energy exchanges and stakeholder relationships, and that life cycle analysis (LCA), which characterizes the environmental burdens of a good or service from raw material extraction to end of life, will be a critical tool for understanding and managing sustainability of consumer products…if the links between product design, market response, and environmental performance can be characterized.
This presentation will discuss a new approach to building the LCA model, which can account for the relationships between product design decisions and the responses by suppliers, competing manufacturers, and consumers in their own decisions for resource consumption. These economic interactions can affect the life cycle environmental performance of a product (such as a personal vehicle) in unexpected ways, illustrating the need for future sustainable consumption policy to target economic decision makers throughout the life cycle, at the production and consumption stages. Future scenarios for personal transportation, personal electronics, and alternative energy systems will be briefly explored for opportunities to unite economic modeling with life cycle analysis tools, to improve their utility for environmental design and policy.