Hawken et al
wrote in Natural Capitalism ,
' By the time the design for most uman artefacts
is completed but before they have actually been
built, about 80-90 percent of their life-cycle economic
and ecological costs have already been made inevitable.
' The manufacture of a desktop computer and
monitor requires fossil fuels of mass 11 fold greater
than the products themselves.
By comparison, the manufacture of many other goods
require 1-2 fold their mass in fossil fuel in order
to make them.
'In contrast with many home appliances, life
cycle energy use of a computer is dominated by production
(81%) as opposed to operation (19%)'.
EEE also introduces pollution indirectly, particularly
as greenhouse gas emissions. The Department of Environment
estimates that over 42 million tons of greenhouse
gases result each year from the manufacture, use
and disposal of electrical and electronic equipment
purchased by Australians. The research we reviewed
also suggests that the energy saved by recycling
and reusing used electronics is significant. 'The
author of one report by the United Nations University
states that perhaps as much as 80 percent of the
energy used in the life cycle of a computer, which
includes manufacturing, can be saved through refurbishment
and reuse instead of producing a new unit from raw
for infrastructure, buildings, cars and appliances
now have long design lives. The size and duration
of infrastructure and building developments, for
instance, demand that they should now be far more
critically evaluated for efficiency and function
than ever before.
considerable opportunities are being missed at the
design phase of projects to significantly reduce
negative environmental impacts. There are a great
deal of opportunities here for business and government
to reduce process costs, and achieve greater competitive
advantage through greener product design. As Australian
Senator Robert Hill has previously stated,
construction and motor vehicles are two high profile
industry sectors where producers are utilising
(DfE) principles in their product development
processes, thereby strategically reducing the
environmental impact of a product or service over
its entire life cycle, from manufacture to disposal.
Companies that are incorporating DfE are at the
forefront of innovative business management in
Australia . As the link between business success
and environmental protection becomes clearer,
visionary companies have the opportunity to improve
business practices, to be more competitive in
a global economy, and increase their longevity.
Department of Environment and Heritage has published
Product Innovation: The Green Advantage: An
Introduction to Design For Environment for Australian
which highlights the benefits of pursuing a 'Design
for Environment' approach. This is backed up by
numerous studies. 'Design for Environment' provides
a new way for business to cost effectively achieve
greater efficiencies and competitiveness from product
re-design. Harvard business school Professor Michael
Porter et al,
highlights the ways that 'Design for Environment'
at the early stages of development of a project
can both reduce costs, create product differentiation
and help the environment, through:
Lower product costs
(e.g. from material substitution, new improved
Lower net costs
to customers of product disposal.
Higher product resale
and scrap value.
Products that meet
new consumer demands for environmental benefits.
are placing greater emphasis on the recyclability
of materials used in PCs and the impact the physical
design has on the recyclability of products. Manufacturers
are now reducing the amount of different plastics
in their units making it easier to sort for recycling.
They are increasingly looking at the type of plastic
used to ensure that there is a market for the
recycled resin. Plastic components over a certain
size are being labelled to aid the recovery of
the plastic. Manufacturers are ensuring that their
units are easier to dismantle, thereby aiding
the recycling process. There is a reduction in
the number of screws used and preferences now
made towards parts that clip together.
legislation in most countries means that local governments
pay for e-product recycling and collection. However,
governments, especially local governments, cannot
afford to run these initiatives alone. There is
still debate as to who should take financial responsibility
for recycling and collection; a survey of US local
governments by the Santa Clara County Department
of Environment Health
showed that the popular suggestion is for manufacturers,
distributors and retailers to carry most of the
Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a methodology to assess
the environmental impacts of a product, process
or service. The International Organisation for Standardisation's
(ISO) defines Life Cycle Assessment as: 'A systematic
set of procedures for compiling and examining the
inputs and outputs of materials and energy and the
associated environmental impacts directly attributable
to the functioning of a product or service throughout
its life cycle'.
to the ISO 14040 series, LCA is conducted by 1)
developing an inventory of all inputs (materials,
energy) and outputs (waste, emissions, other environmental
impacts); 2) evaluating potential impacts based
on inputs and outputs compiled in inventory; and
3) interpreting results.
manufacture products, or provide services, by taking
a life cycle approach to their daily activities.
They take into consideration not only the finished
product or service (looking at inputs and outputs
at each state of the process, production or service
delivery), but also how it will impact the environment
The life cycle of
making a t-shirt:
Raw Materials - fertiliser, energy, water
Processing - energy, cleaners, dyes
Manufacturing - energy, waste
Packaging - paper, plastics, waste
Transport - energy
Use - bleach, detergents, water, energy
Either one of 1) Disposal, 2) Reuse (go back to
f.), or 3) recycle (go back to a.)
lifecycle approach helps us to engage in whole systems
thinking - both understanding the complex interactions
between energy and material throughout the life
of a product, and thinking in the long term about
the impacts these interactions will have on the
environment and society. LCA ultimately helps industry,
government and the consumer make informed decisions
about product purchasing.
example - avoid shifting problems from one part
of the environment to the other: Methyl Tertiary
Butyl Ether (MTBE) is added to gasoline to increase
combustion levels, reducing emissions. MTBE may
be toxic if it is not combusted fully, and is now
present in our major waterways and in the atmosphere.
LCA lesson - focusing on one part of the emissions
cycle (i.e. reducing pollution from automobile combustion)
has created problems in other parts of the cycle
ie. MTBE exceeding allowable levels in major water
Out Exercise: Design for Environment
Case Study: RLX computer server
evolving economy of the world is highly dependent
on fast, reliable computers. Server appliances for
internet hosting provide the computing power for
companies to have a large 'ecological footprint'
on-line. Server appliances are large groups of computers
(servers), typically mounted together in racks.
Often large numbers of these racks are used to meet
required hosting needs.
power is the design focus, with other issues (i.e.,
ease of use, affordability, efficiency, size, etc.)
considered to be secondary, if addressed at all.
The specifications for conventional server racks
depend on the manufacturer, but the leading brand
incorporates 42 servers into a rack, with two processors
per server. The processors used are similar to those
for home computers, requiring dedicated fans to
blow over large heat sinks. Electrical connections
within a single server are accomplished with wiring,
which is a source of failure. The large number of
Ethernet cables required by such a rack is difficult
to manage. A company requiring 336 servers to meet
their hosting needs will need 8 server racks, each
containing 42 servers. Each server costs roughly
$4000 and weighs 29 lbs, so the complete system
will cost $1,350,000 and weigh nearly 10,000 lbs.
This setup will require 264 amps to function.
a relative newcomer to server development, decided
to take a new approach to server design. Through
market research, they recognised the importance
of both compact design and energy efficiency to
server customers, in addition to computing speed.
RLX used whole systems analysis to determine how
best to meet these new design parameters. Analysis
was performed at the processor level, the server
level, the rack level, and the system level, resulting
in a product which better meets customer needs.
RLX blade server is centred about an efficient processor
built by Transmeta. This processor requires 20 percent
of the electrical power of an equivalent Pentium
III processor. As a result, no heat sinks or dedicated
fans are required for cooling, reducing the size
of each server. RLX servers require 1/8 as much
space as traditional designs, so 336 servers fit
in a single rack, versus 8 racks of competitors.
Each server costs $1500 and weights 3 lbs. The initial
cost of a 336 server system ($504,000) is 63 percent
less and weighs 80 percent less than the leading
competitor's equivalent system. Due to a smaller
footprint and reduced electricity consumption (43
amps), the operating costs are less too, saving
an additional $133,000/y. To further improve on
the competition, RLX made the overall system more
reliable with solid-state electrical connections
and redundant power supplies. No tools are required
to install additional servers, so expansion of computing
abilities is straightforward. In addition, 1/12
as many Ethernet cables are required per rack, making
their management significantly easier.
Out Discussion: Life Cycle Assessment
Case Study: LCA of Washing Machines
washing machines comprise the following life cycle
of raw materials
of raw materials for initial processing
transport of materials and components to washing
of washing machine
transport and distribution of washing machine
of washing machine - including detergent and itspackaging,
water and wastewater treatment
and disposal of washing machine.
an LCA the potential and likely environmental impacts
of each stage noted above must be considered. For
example during the operation and disposal of the
washer, impacts such as air pollutants, water pollutants
and consumption, greenhouse emissions and solid
waste, and the use and production of toxic/hazardous
substances can be clearly identified:
operation - waterborne emissions, wastewater treatment
and manufacture of treatment chemicals; energy
used for water heating, motor functioning, water
Detergent and its
packaging - detergent manufacture i.e. energy,
box and carton materials, waste.
disposal - transport to disposal, energy used
and compacting, materials recycling, solid waste