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Log on for new carbon footprint analysis - it's free!

15 February 2008

With increasing concerns over waste and the need for ‘greener’ products, a new free online service will help manufacturers take the first steps towards greener designs by assessing their product’s carbon footprint in minutes, without spending a penny. Called the LCA Calculator, the service will provide a complete life cycle analysis of any given product. The questions are comprehensive, addressing issues such as the types and amounts of materials used in production, where the product is manufactured, how the materials are processed, the amount of energy it consumes in use, where and how it is transported, the impact during disposal, landfill or other, and whether it is recycled.

The web service was devised following the results of a survey of designers and engineers working in new product development by Industrial Design Consultancy (IDC), a multi-award winning product design agency based in Berkshire.

The survey revealed some 50% of companies interviewed admitted that the environmental impact of a product was not currently a major design consideration for them. Yet, 82% believed it would be in the future. 61% were also aware of life cycle analysis (LCA) as a process to calculate a product’s carbon footprint, but only 29% believed their company had ever carried out an LCA during design stages. The interviewees were united in a resounding positive response to the possibility of a free LCA online service; all said they would use it and be willing to employ the simple changes that could make a great difference to a new product’s environmental impact.

Stephen Knowles, Managing Director of IDC, explains, “As a design consultancy, our job is to help companies develop better products. We were aware that many companies don’t know where to start when it comes to assessing the environmental impact of their products. They know that the move towards ‘greener’ product design is inevitable and want to be part of it, but until now there has not been a simple tool to assess the environmental impact of a product. The LCA Calculator will enable companies to understand the environmental impact of design decisions and is a first step towards putting sustainable design at the heart of the development process.”

Products contribute to global warming in a number of ways. For example, energy is used to extract and process materials, in product transportation, by the product in use, and during disposal of a product. The site takes the user through a several pages of simple, targeted questions relating to a product’s life cycle, breaking down the constituent parts, where it is manufactured, how it is transported, its energy consumption and finally, its disposal. Once all the pages have been completed, the user will be shown a breakdown of the energy consumption and associated carbon dioxide emissions during each stage of the produce life cycle. This new online service is completely free and easy to use and a detailed pdf data report can also be generated with recommendations for areas of improvement.

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